Testing finds no lead hazard

High levels of paint found in public housing last fall

`It's a good first step'

Annapolis

January 20, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

An environmental testing company has found that the lead paint at several Annapolis public housing units "does not pose a health hazard to residents and occupants," despite higher-than-normal amounts of the toxic substance detected in the buildings last fall.

"The lead-based paint is buried under layers of newer, non-lead paint" and "the surfaces of the lead-based paint are intact and are not peeling loose," Jennifer W. Matherly, a project engineer for Environmental Testing Inc. in Middletown, Del., wrote in a recent letter.

The testing began last fall after Annapolis Housing Authority employees were unable to find lead-paint records for nearly 400 public housing units. Lead paint can cause blood ailments, brain damage and behavioral problems, especially in young children.

Above-normal lead levels were found during a test of 16 apartments in the Harbor House and College Creek Terrace communities in October.

Housing Authority officials have not rented out vacant units in Harbor House and College Creek Terrace since testing began.

Surfaces tested by Environmental Testing Inc. over the course of a month were found to be below the federal and state safety guideline of 0.7 milligrams per square centimeter on painted surfaces.

Tests found one unit had peeling lead paint on the doors, but a dust sampling showed that the amount of detectable toxins was below the federal guideline of 40 micrograms per square foot, the testing company said.

Acceptable lead levels for floors, windows and walls vary.

Trudy McFall, chairwoman of the Housing Authority board, said she was relieved by the most recent findings. Because authority employees couldn't find earlier records, McFall and others were concerned that lead testing had not been done for a decade or more.

"I'm delighted," McFall said. "What it clearly begins to affirm is that the lead paint work was done in the 1990s."

McFall said she hopes that all of the housing units will be tested within two months so that the authority can reassure residents and begin renting apartments again. She said the authority might hire additional environmental companies to speed the process.

"We need to put this behind us as soon as possible," she said.

Annapolis Alderwoman Cynthia A. Carter said she, too, was pleased with the results. Carter, who represents many Housing Authority residents, had asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to test homes for lead paint.

"It's a good first step," Carter said.

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