Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Senate Environmental Committee Holds Hearing On Lead Exposure In Northeast PA

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Tuesday held a hearing on lead exposure and mitigation in Pittston, Luzerne County to hear a regional perspective on lead policy in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing. Click Here for copies of written testimony.
“Lead exposure can lead to long-term health consequences, especially for children and older adults. In Northeastern Pennsylvania, efforts to mitigate lead exposure like the city of Wilkes-Barre doing biannual testing of its public water system and Pittston leading county-wide efforts to address aging infrastructure through a new municipal land bank authority are laudable,” said Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee.
“However, we can do more and we should do more. Today’s committee hearing, along with the work of the Lead Task Force and Advisory Committee will help us establish policies to protect children and vulnerable populations from lead poisoning,” Sen. Yudichak added.
Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Department of Health, said “Pennsylvania is third in the nation for having the most housing units built before 1950, when lead-based paint was most prevalent.
“As these houses get older and the condition deteriorates or normal renovation occurs to replace windows, scrape and repaint porches, or any other work that affects the condition of the paint, there is a chance that lead-based paint dust can be spread to floors, yards, or windowsills, where it becomes easy for children to be exposed,” she explained
“If you buy or rent a house built before 1978, federal law requires the seller or landlord to disclose any records of the presence of lead-based paint, to help you make your decision about whether this is the right home for you and your family,” she said. “Lead-based paint isn’t hazardous if it’s maintained in good condition, and there are also state and federal requirements for contractors to be trained and certified and follow work practices designed to reduce the amount of hazardous lead dust that is created as a result of renovation work.  If your home is built before 1978 and you’re hiring a contractor to work in it, you should ask the contractor to show you the contractor’s lead certification.”
Lisa Daniels, Acting DEP Deputy Secretary for Water Programs, said lead enters drinking water mainly from corrosion of lead containing plumbing materials, including lead service lines, faucets and fixtures with leaded brass, and pipes with lead solder.  
She noted lead was widely used in plumbing materials through the 1950s, and its use continued until 1986, when Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act, prohibiting the use of pipes and solder that are not "lead free."
Daniels said 3,031 water systems in Pennsylvania must comply with federal lead and copper rule requirements that sets standards for lead in drinking water.  
Ninety-six percent of those systems are now in compliance and 112 are not.  Of those 112 systems, 58 are schools and child care facilities and 54 are community water supplies.
She said the federal government is now in the process of updating its lead and copper rule that could require replacement of lead service lines and consider the potential role for point of use water filters.
Daniels recommended communities considering water line replace take advantage of a recently released toolkit from the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative
Jennifer Berrier, Director, Bureau of Occupational and Industrial Safety, Department of Labor and Industry, provided the Committee with an overview of its program to certify contractors involved in lead-based paint cleanup and disposal.
Henry Radulski, Health Director, City of Wilkes-Barre, said in May of 2016 the city of Wilkes-Barre became proactive in the fight against childhood lead poisoning.  The health department and its team of inspectors assumed the responsibilities for inspecting all rental units in the city.  
"Prior to the health department doing the rental inspections approximately 300 units were inspected each year.  Since the health department became the lead agency over 2,000 inspections will be conducted this year," said Radulski.
“In early September of this year, the Wilkes-Barre City Health Department was awarded a 2 year Lead Hazard Control Grant from HUD through the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  The most important aspect of this grant is that there is now funding for abatement of lead hazards in housing units," said Radulski.  When there is a child under 6 with an elevated blood level the city now has funding available for mitigation of the lead hazard.  
“Additionally, we were able to hire a lead paint risk assessor who with the necessary equipment can do on site analysis of lead paint. Through the Lead Hazard Control Grant we are required to provide abatement of risk factors for 19 units,” explained Radulski.  “Although it may not seem like a lot, if we can prevent childhood lead poisoning in the children in these units we will have accomplished our goal of creating a healthier Wilkes-Barre.  It will take much more work and many more resources for public health to continue its fight to prevent childhood lead poisoning.”
Dr. Aimee Johnson, Pediatrician, said because Pennsylvania does not have a universal screening mandate, the data on the prevalence of elevated lead levels in young children is limited.  According to the Department of Health’s 2015 Childhood Lead Surveillance Report, only 28 percent of children less than 23 months of age had been tested for blood lead levels.
“The first things (parents should do) is to speak to your child’s physician and advocate for your child to be screened prior to age 2,” Dr. Johnson said. “All children in the state are at risk even if they do not live in a home built prior to the 1950’s.
“A major source of lead exposure is from dust in the environment,” Dr. Johnson explained. “Children often spend several hours a day away from their homes at schools, churches, parks, playgrounds and homes that may have lead dust.  
“If your child’s blood lead level is found to be elevated, your child’s doctor and the Health Department will assist you in resources to find the source of exposure and eliminate it,” said Dr. Johnson,  “Additionally, as citizens we can work to have clean green spaces for children to play near our homes.”
Cherie Gudz, Vice President, Environment, Health and Safety, SGS, provided an overview of lead testing programs on the federal, state and local levels.
David R. Kaufman, Vice President, Engineering, Pennsylvania American Water, said his company has proposed a program to the Public Utility Commission to identify and replace lead service pipes where they are encountered during replacement projects.
In addition, Kaufman said the company will remove and replace lead service pipes when requested to do so by a customer following program guidelines it adopted.
Allowing the company to replace lead service pipes under the program it proposed to the Public Utility Commission, Kaufman said, spreads the costs across its entire customer base and represents a reasonable solution to this problem.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing. Click Here for copies of written testimony.
In June, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 33 sponsored by Sen Yudichak creating a bipartisan task force to investigate the scope of Pennsylvania’s lead exposure problem.
The resolution establishes a Task Force on lead exposure comprised of the chairs of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee and two members appointed by the Senate President pro tempore and the Minority Leader.
The Joint State Government Commission is also directed to establish an Advisory Committee to conduct a comprehensive review of Pennsylvania law and public policy related to lead exposure and abatement practices and then submit a report to the Task Force and full Senate within 18-months.
The report must assess the age of housing and infrastructure, lead exposure threats, and identify the prevalence of lead in structures where children spend significant time.
The Joint State Government Commission Senate Resolution Project Manager is Yvonne Hursh, Counsel, 717-787-1906 or send email to: yhursh@legis.state.pa.us.
For more background on the lead issue, visit DEP’s Lead In Drinking Water webpage and the Department of Health’s Lead Poisoning webpage.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: gyaw@pasen.gov.  Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: yudichak@pasenate.com.
(Photo: Sen. Yaw, Sen. Yudichak, Joanne Manganello, Democratic Committee Executive Director.)
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