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Onondaga County to begin $9 million lead remediation program

Onondaga County officials stand in front of a home that has been renovated to remove lead paint
Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County officials stand in front of a home that has been renovated to remove lead paint

Plans for Onondaga County to spend almost $9 million to attack the lead poisoning issue are starting to take place.

On a sunny autumn day, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon points to a tidy beige house on Syracuse’s west side. What’s remarkable about it, he said, is a massive project that includes new windows, doors and paints. This house is now lead-free. But it came at a cost.

"To fix the problem in this house, $39,000," said McMahon.

That’s why part of a pot of county and federal stimulus funds will help homeowners and landlords cover that cost, and prevent lead poisoning in young children. Hundreds of children in central New York are diagnosed with lead poisoning every year, exposed to lead in the paint and dust in the older homes they live in.

McMahon said offering no-strings and easily accessible cash for remediation is key, but the money will be used for other things as well. For one thing, starting services earlier for any child registering high lead levels in their blood.

"Various levels of therapy, to get in front of the children and make sure they’re not falling behind on a learning standpoint, but also working with the children to monitor the health side of things," he said.

One other issue the funding will help with is finding qualified workers to do the lead remediation. There is a shortage of those kinds of contractors. To help with that, the Syracuse City School District will start a program to certify students in lead removal. Director of Career and Technical education Bruno Primerano said lead awareness will become part of the construction tech pathway.

"It’s pretty technical, it goes into the lead composition within paint, and how to prepare prior to starting on an area indoors, in windows, in paint, it all needs to be mitigated to a certain extent," said Primerano. "Without awareness, you wouldn’t be able to do that."

The county will also begin a mobile lead paint testing van to get a better sense of how many children are afflicted with lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning can lead to brain and nervous system damage, developmental delays, and learning and behavioral problems. It’s a big issue in a community like Syracuse, because many homes were built before 1978, the year the government outlawed lead paint in housing.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.