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In Cleveland, Lead Removal Is Less About Water And More About Old Buildings

Home demolition in Cleveland (photo: Brian Bull/ideastream)
Home demolition in Cleveland (photo: Brian Bull/ideastream)

By ideastream's Brian Bull

After recent scares in Sebring, Ohio and Flint, Michigan, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has introduced a bill aimed at addressing notification delays and readiness plans for communities hit with high lead levels in their drinking water supply.

But Brown acknowledges that in the Greater Cleveland area – where the water quality has routinely tested acceptable –the lead threat is greatest from old buildings and industrial sites scattered across the city.

Brown says he continues to work with city, state, and Congressional officials on addressing residential and commercial blight. 

He adds that in December, Congress approved $2 billion from the Treasury Department for what’s called the “Hardest Hit Fund.”

“…to begin to remove, demolish those homes that don’t even get close to reaching code levels," says Brown. "90-plus percent of them have lead problems in them and exposure to children and pregnant women. It costs $50,000-60,000 to renovate a home, to bring it up to code.  On the average in Cleveland, it costs about $11,000 to demolish a home but people have to have places to live.” 

Ohio is among several states hit by the foreclosure crisis hoping to receive some of that money.

Lead contamination can cause development and behavioral problems in young children and infants.