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Niagara County confident of winning lead paint grant

LOCKPORT – Niagara County has applied before for federal funds to remove lead paint from area homes, but this year, Environmental Health Director Paul R. Dicky thinks the county will win the grant.

“I think through lessons learned, I’m exceedingly optimistic we’ll get it this time,” Dicky told the Board of Health on Thursday.

The county Health Department is applying for $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Dicky said HUD is expected to respond in four to six weeks.

If the county obtains the money, it would be used over a three-year period to remediate an estimated 65 homes in Niagara Falls and Lockport which contain lead-based paint.

Dicky said the county would choose a contractor to survey and enroll eligible properties and secure permission for work. Then another contractor would be chosen to actually remove the paint, and the first contractor would perform testing to make sure the lead was gone.

The grant would include money for temporary relocation costs to move residents while the lead paint is being stripped away.

“Kids with elevated lead levels are the primary target,” Dicky said. Such lead levels result in learning disabilities and other health problems for youngsters.

“I can’t picture people eating paint chips,” said County Legislator Richard L. Andres Jr., a Board of Health member. “I have small kids and they eat a lot, but I never saw them eat paint.” Dicky replied, “I’m told lead paint actually has a sweet taste to kids.”

Kathleen Cavagnaro, director of nursing services for the county Health Department, said paint chips aren’t the only problem. There could be lead dust on the floor if there is lead paint in the house.

“They put all their toys in their mouths,” Cavagnaro said. That’s how the lead can enter the children’s bodies if there is lead dust present.

Dicky said, “Children actually do chew on mouthable surfaces, but there’s also dust from friction surfaces.” He said concentrating on low-income areas of the Falls and Lockport in the grant application could generate more points for Niagara County in the HUD scoring system.

Dicky said the county also is applying for another $150,000 from HUD for a variety of less costly “healthy health initiatives.”