City notifies EPA of lead paint infractions
PORTSMOUTH — The city has notified the federal Environmental Protection Agency because they believe the owner of a Union Street duplex didn’t use a certified contractor to remove lead paint from the outside of the home.
“There are very specific laws for lead paint removal,” City Health Officer Kim McNamara said Monday. “It does not appear that those laws were followed.”
Dave Deegan, a media relations representative with the EPA’s New England Regional Office, said violations “of the Lead Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule can result in penalties of up to $37,500 per day, per violation.”
Deegan said it’s difficult to generalize about the exact penalty someone could face.
“The bottom line is that lead is a very dangerous substance that continues to poison children here in New England due to our large supply of pre-1978 housing stock,” Deegan said in a prepared statement. “So failing to follow appropriate steps to minimize, contain and remove lead dust and debris during renovation projects can result in undue health risks for children.”
McNamara taped off the area around the house at 446 Union St. on Friday using yellow tape and signs stating, “Lead Paint: Do Not Enter,” after a contractor started working on peeling the old lead paint off the house and then stopped.
But he left the lead paint scrapings “all over the ground,” McNamara said.
The health officer taped off the area when she told co-owner Meeju Kim of Cambridge, Mass., on Friday to clean up the scrapings, and Kim said she would do so when it didn’t interfere with her work schedule.
Yong Park of Cambridge is the other co-owner, according to city records.
The health officer visited the house Monday morning with the city’s housing officer and determined “they have done a substantial pickup of chips out there, but there are still some.”
McNamara gave the owners 48 hours to finish the cleanup, which they couldn’t complete Monday because of the rainstorms. The city will reinspect the home n Wednesday.
“If the area is clear, then the caution tape will come down,” McNamara said.
Larissa Cordialini, who lives in the upstairs unit with her family — including three children — said she decided to notify the city about the lead paint scrapings after her landlord promised to send somebody to finish the job close to a month ago, but never did.
“I would just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Cordialini said of living with the lead paint. “She just doesn’t care that she could be making us sick.”
Reached Monday evening, Kim said the contractor told her he was qualified to do the job.
“I did the best I could,” Kim said. “I thought I was hiring a top contractor. … I have no knowledge of any of this.”
Kim said she hired another crew to go to the house on Saturday to clean up the scrapings.
“I’m doing everything we can to clean up,” Kim said.
Police received a call Saturday morning from a neighbor who said Kim had shown up and cut the tape down, according to police records.
But Kim said she “relocated the tape because we were trying to clean it,” and then she put the tape back up.
Police also indicated she had put the bright yellow tape back up.
McNamara confirmed Cordialini’s contention that there is also lead paint inside the apartment in the window wells.
“Lead paint has a very distinct cracking pattern,” McNamara said.
Cordialini and her family are moving out of the apartment — which they’ve been paying $2,200 a month for — by Aug. 1, McNamara said.
The city has ordered the owners to replace all the older windows in the apartment before they allow any more children in the unit.
“We don’t want children in there,” McNamara said.
It doesn’t take much exposure to lead paint to put a child at risk, she said.
“That’s why lead paint is still such a danger,” McNamara said.
She believes “a substantial amount of your housing stock in the city” likely includes some lead paint.
That’s why contractors have to be certified before they can handle it.
“People working with lead paint, they all should be well-versed in renovation and repairs,” McNamara said.
For information on lead paint renovation or repair, visit the EPA’s Web site at www2.epa.gov/lead/renovation-repair-and-painting-program.
For information about how to prevent lead poisoning, visit www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/bchs/clpp/index.htm.