Specter of lead poisoning towers over Glyndon

March 11, 1993|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,Contributing Writer

Demetra Goldman is finding chunks of lead paint everywhere these days -- by the lilac bush, on the edge of the back lawn, all over the front lawn of her Glyndon home.

And until something is done about the paint falling from the fenced-in water tower a few yards from her house, she will not let her four young grandchildren play in her yard.

"They told me not to pick these up without gloves because they are lead," Mrs. Goldman said, pointing to a fist-sized shard on her front lawn on First Avenue. "I am worried. Let's face it. We're going to have March winds, April showers. It looks like more [paint] is coming down."

For the past month, lead paint particles, some as large as 9 inches long, have been falling on the lawns of a handful of families near the tower. Officials in Baltimore and Baltimore County say they are working quickly to fix the problem, but the process could take months. The county has to perform tests on the paint chips and the city has to obtain contract bids.

The 300,000-gallon tank serves Reisterstown and Glyndon, but is owned, operated and maintained by the city.

According to David Filbert, chief of the county's Bureau of Air Quality and Waste Management, samples tested for lead content revealed a 6 percent to 19 percent concentration. A 0.6 percent level of lead concentration indicates a need to remedy the lead problem, he said.

The effects of lead poisoning include brain damage in severe cases and developmental disabilities in lower level exposure. For these reasons, residents worry about what effect the particles will have on neighborhood children.

"I don't want my children playing in the dirt if it's filled with lead," said Sean Staley, who lives on First Avenue with his wife, Laura, and two children.

Mr. Filbert said his office has no immediate plans to test the soil for lead content because there's "not much danger of it getting into the soil."

The county is still waiting for test results that will help determine the best way to dispose of the paint, said Mr. Filbert. Those results are expected to arrive this week. Once the results are in, the city will hire a contractor to clean up the mess.

Mr. Filbert said priority will be given to cleaning up the paint that already has fallen. Then the 59-year-old tower will be stripped and repainted. He hopes work can begin in the next few weeks.

But Vanessa Pyatt, spokeswoman for the city's Department of Public Works, said awarding a contract through the city's bid process could take anywhere from several weeks to several months. Still, she added, the project is a priority.

Ms. Pyatt said the city is preparing specifications with the county, and although the county is testing for lead content, "the city has the lead on making sure renovations are done on the tower."

That doesn't leave Mr. Staley fully satisfied. He feels like he's been getting the run-around for the past month.

"While they're deciding what to do with [the paint], it's sitting here . . . being picked up by the kids and animals and soaking into the ground," he said.

Mr. Filbert said the particles shouldn't be a problem unless residents ingest the paint or handle it and touch food without first washing their hands. There shouldn't be a problem with lead-bearing dust because of the large size of the particles, he added.

After work on the Glyndon tower is finished, Mr. Filbert said, he may check the other 15 city-owned towers in the county.

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