Lead remediation bill seems to be heading to Senate floor

Sam HautHeadlines

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Senate committee hears discussion on a bill to address lead paint in Delaware.

A bill looking to address lead across Delaware passed to the Senate floor with four in favor and one on its merits after a warm reception by the Senate Health & Social Service Committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington, creates the Delaware State Lead-Based Paint Program.

It would require the Division of Public Health to, within 60 days of being notified of a child with 3.5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood, find out where the child is and where they were exposed to lead.

The division would then have 10 days to tell the child’s parent that the child has elevated blood lead levels, what the division is doing to address the presence of lead, get a contractor to do a lead risk assessment of the site where the child got increased blood lead levels, and inform the owner of the site with lead that the state will fund lead abatement.

A lead-based paint abatement and remediation fund would also be established, and the bill would require the legislature to appropriate money for the fund.

That money could only be used to pay for lead remediation or assessment projects across the state and for temporary housing for people whose property is being remediated.

Because Senate committees do not vote publicly on bills, it was not immediately clear that the bill passed, but it faced no major objections.

The bill follows a Monday press conference in which McBride introduced the bill and talked about its benefits.

Related Story: State looks to rectify effects of lead paint with new bill

While a fiscal note for the bill is incomplete, Governor John Carney’s proposed budget included $2.9 million to build capacity in the Department of Health and Human Services for lead remediation.

Mark Holodick, secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, has also announced another $3.8 million investment in lead remediation.

Molly Magarik, cabinet secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Public Health, told the committee that lead exposure is extremely dangerous to children.

“We are concerned with everyone’s exposure to lead but it is especially important for children under six because their brains are developing so rapidly and because of that they are at the greatest risk of harm from lead exposure,” Magarik said. “And again, that lead exposure whether it’s inhaled or ingested, can cause long term neurological damage that may be associated with learning and behavioral problems throughout the lifespan.”

Magarik said they are also working to get additional grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which New Castle County has already received.

Eric Buckson, R-Dover, said he wants to make sure that Kent and Sussex counties are both getting the same assistance for addressing lead as New Castle County.

McBride said that she has spoken with people in Sussex County who are looking forward to getting more funding for lead remediation.

During public comment on the bill, nine people spoke in favor of the bill, with no one speaking against it.

Lincoln Willis, representing both the Medical Society of Delaware and the Delaware League of Local Governments, said, “SB 9 is a big step forward to helping lead abatement become a reality, for the sake of Delaware’s children and their health.”

He said the bill may need more funding, and the Society and League look forward to helping fund that.

Taylor Hawk, director of legislative and political strategy with the Delaware State Education Association, said lead exposure is impactful and highly detrimental.

“A child who has been poisoned by lead is seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system,” Hawk said. “Delaware educators see the impacts of lead exposure in their schools and classrooms every day. While the effects of lead poisoning may be permanent, lead exposure is preventable.”

The bill has 23 additional sponsors and cosponsors, including 22 Democrats and two Republicans.

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