City wants lead-paint funding back

Ehrlich budget has MDE enforcing laws statewide

February 08, 2005|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley and other city leaders gathered yesterday at the home of a girl who had been poisoned by lead to call on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to restore funding to one of Baltimore's lead-paint programs.

Officials said the program recently helped Nattiel Cooper replace windows and eliminate other lead hazards in her Northwest Baltimore house. That assistance came too late for her daughter, who was poisoned in the home more than a decade ago and now, at age 15, has a learning disability.

"No child should have to go through this," Cooper said.

Ehrlich's budget eliminated $375,000 for the program, which enforces compliance with lead-paint regulations.

State officials say they plan to transfer $147,000 of the money to the Maryland Department of the Environment, which they say will perform similar enforcement duties statewide and for less money.

"The perception is the program is being eliminated. It's not. The responsibility is being shifted to the state," said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver. "This is a state issue that should be addressed at the state level."

Alvin Bowles, manager of MDE's lead poisoning prevention program, said the state will be able to make the money go further. "We just feel like it would be more efficient, more productive for us to do the program," he said.

O'Malley and the other officials urged the governor not only to restore the money but to increase the amount to $500,000. O'Malley said the city program had reduced the number of lead-poisoned children in Baltimore by 85 percent over the past four years. "We've had nation-leading results," O'Malley said.

Without the money, the city will have to eliminate five of its seven lead-paint inspectors and the lawyer who takes lead-paint cases to court, said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the city's health commissioner.

"It would decimate our enforcement section," he said.

Beilenson said it is important to maintain the city program because Baltimore's lead-paint laws are stricter than the state's.

Bowles said the state has the authority to order the same lead remediation as the city.

"We could do that. We have been doing it more and more," he said. "We can, through our state law, probably do anything the city is able to do."

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