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Audit finds discrepancies in billings

An audit uncovered improper billing by 61 providers during 2002 and 2003 in the Niagara County Health Department's Early Intervention Program for children under age 3, according to Lisa Chester, director of the county's Children with Special Needs program.

There were billing discrepancies, such as agencies asserting their providers visited children in two different homes at the same time, or including nonbillable travel time as appointment time.

Chester said the county attorney's office recommended that 50 percent restitution be charged to the providers, and she said it has all been paid. State officials are still deciding whether to impose other charges on the providers.

The county has been paid back a total of $15,150 by 19 agencies and $42,154 by 42 independent providers.

On another topic, Environmental Health Director James J. Devald told the county health board that a survey of radioactive hot spots on Lewiston Road in Niagara Falls showed radiation levels under the pavement that were lower than those found in a 1986 test of the same locations by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The city is planning to rebuild the road next year, and the contractor it hires must clean up the contamination.

Devald said it likely stems from naturally occurring radioactivity from radium and uranium found in phosphorus slag, such as was generated by manufacturing processes for 50 years at the Oldbury Chemical and Union Carbide plants. It may have fallen out of trucks hauling it to the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works in Lewiston and Porter.

Devald said recent tests by health physicist Marvin Resnikoff tried to replicate the 1986 tests. He said preliminary data indicates the radiation in the road bed poses no public health risk.

Also, the Board of Health imposed $1,000 fines on two bars that violated the state anti-smoking law: The Ritts on Upper Mountain Road in Lockport and City Limits on Hyde Park Boulevard in Niagara Falls. Both are repeat violators, and the $1,000 is the highest possible fine.

The Health Department collected $21,000 in smoking fines so far this year.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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