Blair receives grant money for lead abatement

Blair County has been awarded a Lead Hazard Control grant administered through the Penn­sylvania Department of Health to provide lead abatement to residents.

With the help of other grants from the Pennsylvania Depart­ment of Community and Eco­nomic Development and other combined funding sources, Blair County has expanded its housing rehabilitation program.

Although the county has been supplying some funding for the Blair County Redevelopment Auth­ority’s housing rehabilitation program for several years, a needs assessment resulted in the department’s launch of its own lead hazard control program, said Rebecca Christ, Blair County De­partment of Social Services community development specialist.

The county’s first lead hazard control grant is $85,750, which will fund abatement for at least five families by the end of the year.

“Our hope is that we have a large interest from homeowners as we plan to seek to obtain a second lead hazard control grant heading into 2020,” Christ said.

Trina Illig, grants coordinator for community development, worked with the Department of Health to obtain the funds, and Christ administers them to assist residents.

Altoona has shown a higher lead exposure rate among children than other cities in Penn­sylvania, as shown by the state Department of Health’s Childhood Lead Annual Sur­veillance re­ports.

“We encourage low- to moderate-income homeowners with children age 5 and under and those households that have grandchildren or visiting children age 5 and under to contact us for an application for housing rehabilitation and lead abatement,” Christ said.

Deteriorated, chipped and peeling lead paint can cause several health issues including lead poisoning, and children in that age bracket are at the greatest risk, Christ wrote in an email.

Some of the risks include developmental delays, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, hearing loss, seizures and more. Pregnant women are at risk of having premature or lower birth weight babies.

There are several steps necessary to properly re­move lead hazards from a home.

The county’s participating contractors are all lead-based paint certified through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

“We are always looking to expand our contractor list, as well, so that we can assist as many families as possible,” Christ wrote.

Qualifying applicants will receive a lead-based paint risk assessment of their homes to determine what areas contain lead paint.

Most central Pennsyl­vania housing units were built before 1980, raising the possibility they contain lead paint. The federal government didn’t ban consumer uses of paint containing lead until 1978.

In Blair County, 77 percent of housing, or 54,441 homes or housing units, were built before 1980, according to American Community Survey 2017 estimates.

Lead can be found in many areas of the home, such as soil or household dust, as well as being an ingredient in many paints and stains.

The county has also received funding to provide testing for children’s blood lead levels for those families who may not have insurance or the ability to afford the test.

The program combined with other funding sources can also provide updated windows, roofing, siding and even a furnace or electrical updates.

“The grant funds give us the ability to change the quality of life for so many families in need,” Christ said.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.

How to apply

To apply for the Lead Hazard control program, call Rebecca Christ, community development specialist, Blair County Department of Social Ser­vices at 693-3023, ext. 1492. Applications are also available at the Blair County Courthouse, 423 Allegheny St., Suite 441B, Hollidaysburg.