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New Haven Property Owner Fined for Failure to Notify Tenants of Risks from Exposure to Lead Paint

Release Date: 10/07/04
Contact Information:

For Immediate Release: October 7, 2004

Contact: David Deegan, 617-918-1017; Release # 04-10-07

BOSTON – The owner of several hundred residential apartment units situated in nine buildings in New Haven, CT, and the company that manages the buildings, has been issued a complaint by EPA and is ordered to pay a $115,940 penalty for failing to properly notify renters of risks from exposure to lead paint. The 219 apartment units are owned by Ardelle Cowie and managed by Chelsea Company, which is owned by Cowie.

EPA’s complaint, filed on Sept. 30, stems from a July 2003 inspection of Chelsea Company. During the inspection, EPA learned that neither the building owner nor the management company were consistently complying with federal law regarding notification of tenants about the hazards posed to human health, especially to children, resulting from exposure to lead.

Inspectors also learned that four children who once lived in the buildings had been found to have elevated blood-lead levels, although it is unknown whether the children had these elevated blood-lead levels before they moved into Cowie’s buildings. When the New Haven Department of Health was notified of these elevated blood-levels, it conducted lead inspections at units where these children had lived, found lead hazards, and issued abatement orders. As a result, the owner either addressed lead issues or kept the units vacant.

"Lead poisoning is a serious health threat for children in New England, because a large amount of housing is older and can contain lead paint," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England office. "It is critically important that renters and buyers, especially with young children, get the information they need to protect themselves and their children from potential exposure to lead paint."

Low-level lead poisoning continues to be widespread among American children. Children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning, both because of a higher probability of ingestion of lead paint particles (including lead contaminated dust) and because of a higher degree of vulnerability due to children’s young developing bodies. Elevated lead levels can trigger learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing and even brain damage. Pregnant women are also susceptible because lead exposure before or during pregnancy can alter fetal development and cause miscarriages.

Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of children under six years of age have elevated blood lead levels. In 2002, more than 400 validated lead poisonings were documented in New Haven for children between one and six years of age. This is the highest level of validated elevated blood levels in Connecticut.

Homes built before 1978, when lead in paint was banned, are more likely to contain lead paint. Because so much of New England’s housing stock is older, childhood lead exposure continues to be a big concern in the Northeast. The problem is particularly acute for urban, minority children of low-income families who live in older housing. In New Haven, well over half of the available housing was constructed before 1978, and almost one-quarter of residents are below the federal poverty line.

This case is among more than a dozen lead-related civil and criminal cases EPA New England has taken since 2002 to make sure property owners are complying with federal laws that require them to notify tenants and prospective buyers of potential lead-paint hazards in their buildings. The initiative has included more than 200 inspections around New England as well as compliance assistance workshops.

Federal law requires that sellers and landlords selling or renting housing built before 1978 must: provide an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet; include lead notification language in sales and rental forms; disclose any known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in the living unit and provide available reports to buyers or renters; allow a lead inspection or risk assessment by home buyers; and maintain records certifying compliance with federal laws for a period of three years. Sellers, lessors, and real estate agents all share responsibility for such compliance.

Cowie cooperated with the EPA inspectors, and settlement negotiations to resolve this matter have already begun. Tenants of Chelsea Co. who qualified for Section 8 assistance do appear to have been notified of lead hazards, because they received a standard lease from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For more information on lead paint disclosure requirements and other issues regarding lead, visit the agency's web site at .

Related Information:
Internet Training Course: Lead Safety for Remodeling, Repair, and Painting (EPA HQ)
Lead Poisoning, Lead Paint, etc.
Lead Paint Enforcement Program
Lead Paint Disclosure Rules