Old city buildings are tested for lead paint

As part of a renewed enforcement effort in New Haven, the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered $80,000 in repairs in 31 city apartments contaminated with lead paint.

The Chelsea Company must replace 200 hazardous windows over three years in properties at 1275 Chapel St., 80 Howe St. and several buildings on Dwight Street — some housing Yale students. The company, owned by Ardelle Cowie GRD ’78, manages several apartment other buildings near Dwight Street not included in the settlement.

Catherine Smith, a senior enforcement counsel for the EPA, Region 1, said the inspection was part of a national effort to enforce lead disclosure laws.

“We had been trying to target our inspections for this regulation in cities that are most impacted by lead poisoning,” Smith said. “New Haven has a pretty bad lead poisoning rate and it was the natural choice for a target city.”

The New Haven Department of Public Health estimates that 35,000 of the 45,000 rental units in New Haven have lead paint.

A federal disclosure rule requires landowners who own housing built before 1978 provide anyone leasing their units with information about any possible lead contamination in the unit.

New Haven was chosen for its large number of old buildings, many of which were built before 1978. Cowie, who said she was unaware of the rule until the EPA inspections, said every building she owns was built before that year.

Leila Afshar ’06, who has lived at 80 Howe St. for two years, said while she is glad the regulations are being enforced, she hopes it will not affect building’s 1930s design.

“It’s nice to preserve this type of architecture, but it is unfortunate it conflicts with the fundamental regulations that followed its construction,” Afshar said.

In addition to the predominance of old buildings, Smith said New Haven was targeted because of its large low-income population.

“There is also a correlation with poverty,” Smith said. “Some inner city apartments aren’t as well maintained, especially ones with poorer families.”

Smith said there are several other New Haven inspections under way. Units with multiple bedrooms will receive priority because they are more likely to house families with young children. But while she said Cowie was cooperative and easy to reach, Smith noted it will be more difficult to contact landlords who only own one or two units.

Children are most susceptible to lead poisoning, which may cause learning disabilities, hyperactivity and brain damage, Smith said. Robert Varney, the regional administrator for the EPA’s New England Office, said the public needs to be informed of the serious effects of lead poisoning.

“It is critically important that renters and buyers get the information they need to protect themselves and their children from potential exposure to lead paint,” Varney said.

The windows in this New Haven building will be replaced by the Chelsea Company due to lead paint contamination.
Esther Quintana
The windows in this New Haven building will be replaced by the Chelsea Company due to lead paint contamination.

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