Lead paint reduction program outlined

The seal of St. Lawrence County. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — St. Lawrence County Planning Office Director Jason C. Pfotenhauer gave an update Monday to the county Board of Legislators on the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program.

The program, which has been going on for more than a year, began because St. Lawrence County was identified as one of the counties where incidence of elevated lead levels increased from 2003 to 2012. Changes were also anticipated in New York state standards for elevated blood lead levels, reducing the acceptable amount from 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood to 5 mg/dL.

Lead hazard assessments have been completed on 16 units, while seven units have achieved lead clearance after lead hazard control work.

Mr. Pfotenhauer explained that a unit is a place of residence where a family would live.

The costs for clearing the seven units of lead have ranged from $13,550 to $24,995.

Right now, an additional four units are under contract, and nine units are in the process of being completed.

One of the challenges to the project, Mr. Pfotenhauer said, is the high per-unit costs. The Department of Housing and Urban Development covers only up to $20,000 of work costs. But sometimes, Mr. Pfotenhauer said, HUD can be flexible and cover costs above $20,000 — if the county makes a special case to them.

In general, though, this cost limit has stalled some of the work that needs to be done, as nearly 55% of units have received an estimate above HUD’s per-unit limit, according to Mr. Pfotenhauer.

Mr. Pfotenhauer reasoned that costs have been exacerbated by materials-cost increases during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so should come down in due time.

Another challenge, according to Mr. Pfotenhauer, has been the small pool of lead-certified contractors. In the local area, only three contractors are actively bidding jobs.

Because of this, the North Country Housing Council has sought to identify additional lead-certified contractors in neighboring counties. There is also $6,250 remaining in the HUD’s budget line to train more contractors in lead certification.

“We really want to help as many people as we can that have lead poisoning or have lead paint in their home, especially those with children present,” Mr. Pfotenhauer said. “That’s the focus of the program — to clean up those houses — and we’re happy to work with HUD to get that done.”

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