Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Norco gets $1.5M for lead remediation

Thursday, July 20, 2017 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Northampton County is getting the lead out. It just received a $1.5 million grant from Housing and Urban Development to help residents with lead remediation in owner-occupied housing rehabilitation projects.

Frank Brooks and Mike Brett of Northampton County’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), under the leadership of Director Tim Herrlinger, deserve the credit for lobbying federal officials for these funds. This money is provided to help the county’s neediest homeowners, and more importantly, their children.

The state Department of Health has warned that lead is especially harmful to young children. At low levels, it may make learning difficult, interfere with growth, harm hearing and delay development. At higher levels, it can cause coma, convulsions and even death.

The leading cause of lead poisoning is lead dust from lead-based paint which was used in many homes until 1978.

It’s expensive to remove. According to the County DCED, up to 40 percent of the cost for home rehabilitation is for lead remediation. The county hopes to put this money to work, starting this year.

Can’t you just paint over it? Most authorities caution against this practice. Subsequent friction or contact might break through the coated surface and expose the lead paint below. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends removing lead paint and then sealing the surfaces. This is especially necessary if children 6 years of age and younger are in the house.

Since 2012, 12 homes have been rehabilitated under the county’s Owner-occupied Housing Rehabilitation Program. The purpose of the program is to “maintain and preserve the availability of safe and affordable housing for homeowners who have low-to-moderate incomes through Northampton County’s boroughs and townships.”

Three more homes are under contract, and five more under the intake and review process. There is a pipeline of over 30 prospective clients.

DCED plans to administer the grant funds based on need, with a priority for child-occupied properties with children under the age of 6, as well as seniors aging in place in homes with identifiable lead-hazards.

DCED works with local municipal code departments to identify the neediest households. After the program has been advertised publicly, direct contact is made with any households determined to be in need. It is up to the homeowners to submit applications. Those are reviewed based on the income criteria and eligibility of the requested activities on a first come basis, with few exceptions for emergencies or circumstances where there is an imminent threat to life or property.

Pre-application forms are also available on the county website.

DCED Director Tim Herrlinger said the grant will help “a greater number of citizens throughout Northampton county to improve their living spaces by removing the dangerous effects of lead, helping to bring more households up to a safer living standard.” Executive John Brown added that the grant “supports a creative program designed to provide real solutions to the challenges our neediest citizens face throughout the County, keeping healthy and safer home environments.”

If you have a question about lead, you can call 1 (800) 424-LEAD [5323].