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Testimony on City Council Lead Safety Bills

Housing

Testimony on City Council Lead Safety Bills

Date Posted: 
11/16/2016

The following testimony was delivered by CLS attorney George Gould before the City Council Public Health and Human Services Committee on November 16, 2016:

Good morning.  My name is George Gould and I thank Chairwoman Bass and members of the Committee for giving me the opportunity testify regarding Bills No. 160609 and 160687, important bills concerning lead poisoning in this city.

I am the Managing Attorney of the Energy Unit at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.  I have worked in the area of childhood lead poisoning for almost 40 years.  I have been involved in federal court litigation against HUD and PHA.  I served as a member of the National Task Force on Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction and Financing, which Congress created in Title X of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992.  I also served as a member of the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) Lead Task Group, and was a member of the Philadelphia Housing and Childhood Lead Poisoning Task Force.

Childhood lead poisoning is a most serious problem.  We are all well aware of the devastating impact lead can have on young children.  However, even at very low levels, lead poisoning causes intelligent quotient deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavior problems.  To this date, science has not been able to identity any safe level of lead exposure to children.  The societal costs of childhood lead poisoning are extremely high, including medical treatment, special education and long-term care.  There are other costs that are just as real:  school failure rates, reduction in lifetime earning, increased crime and the traumatic suffering that the child and the family must endure throughout their lives.

We strongly support Bill No. 160609.  It creates a real and positive famework to deal with this serious issue.  The bill amends the existing lead disclosure ordinance which deals with lead-based paint in residential properties to include child care centers.

Child care centers are a place where many of our children spend a significant amount of time.  This bill would require that an operator of a childcare center obtain a lead safe or lead free certification in order to obtain a Family Child Day Care Facility license.  This would apply to any properties built before 1978.  The lead free or lead safe certification must be signed by a certified lead inspector.  The lead safe certification must state that the certified lead inspector has determined that the property is free of any deteriorated paint and that interior dust samples were collected in compliance with EPA regulations and found not to contain lead-contaminated dust under EPA regulations.

This is an important proactive step.  Rather than waiting for a child to be lead poisoned and then determining where the problem is, steps will be taken in the beginning to make the child care facility lead safe.

Since the Family Child Day Care Facility’s license must be renewed every year and the certification is only good for 24 months, the operator of the facility will have to get a lead-safe certification every two years.  We urge this Committee to vote this bill out of Committee.

I am also here today to testify in strong support of Bill No. 160687, which also amends the current Lead Disclosure Ordinance.  That bill addresses the issue of lead in plumbing components and water service lines and requires a lead warning statement concerning lead plumbing components and lead water service lines.  It advises the tenant to read a pamphlet on these issues at the time of entering into a lease.

As the bill preamble states, lead water service lines and lead plumbing components “can cause water to be contaminated with lead.”  As previously testified, the bill further states that “lead, even at low levels can impair children’s brain development, slowing their growth and development, damaging hearing and speech, and making it harder to pay attention and learn.”

The bill also extends the existing lead disclosure ordinance which requires landlords to put in the lease that the tenant has ten days to have a certified lead inspector inspect the property, at the tenant’s expense, to determine if there are lead paint hazards.  If so, the tenant may terminate the lease within two business days of receiving the report.  This language has been amended to include lead water service lines and lead plumbing components.

The bill also makes it clear that lessors are prohibited from not renting to families with children because of the requirements of this bill.

The bill also deletes the existing requirement that a lessee must notify the landlord, in writing, if they have not received the disclosure request.  This gives unscrupulous landlords the ability not to comply with the disclosure requirement by waiting to see if a lessee notifies them.  There is no such requirement with the seller and the buyer.

As mentioned, we strongly support this bill but believe that one additional amendment should be made.  I believe that if a landlord is aware of the existence of a lead service line and/or lead plumbing components, that information should also be provided prior to entering into the lease.  I have attached an amendment which reflects this change in Section 6-803(3)(a)(.3).

 

                                                Thank You.

                                                GEORGE D. GOULD

                                                Managing Attorney

                                                Community Legal Services, Inc.

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