Utica gets $3.5 million in federal funding to address lead hazards
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is investing $3.5 million to help Utica further its efforts to reduce lead hazards in the city.
The federal grant was secured in part thanks to the Lead-Free MV initiative, which launched two years ago with the goal of addressing the alarming rates of childhood lead poisoning in the Mohawk Valley.
Oneida County has the second-highest rate in New York and Herkimer County's rate is double the state average according to the state health department. John Monaghan with the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, which is funding Lead-Free MV, said part of the reason is that most of Utica's housing stock was built prior to the 1970s before it was known that lead-based products like paint are toxic.
"Trying to turn back over a century of putting that into our environment is going to take some time, but I think with our work through the coalition we are focusing the attention of a great many agencies on this issue," Monaghan said.
Lead-Free MV has worked over the past two years to increase the number of children who are being tested for lead contamination and work with local governments on improving code enforcement laws that could prevent lead poisoning. The group also developed a pilot program to identify and eliminate lead hazards in older homes, which the new federal funding will help scale to remove lead from 180 housing units for low-income families in Utica.