$2.3M to combat lead: City will use HUD grant to continue lead-remediation work

The Michigan City News-Dispatch

MICHIGAN CITY – Efforts to reduce the number of homes in Michigan CIty which still have lead paint – inside or outside – got a fiscal shot in the arm on Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky and U.S. Sen. Todd Young announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded a grant to the city under the Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Grant program.

The $2.3 million grant will support the city's efforts "to initiate a robust lead-reduction program designed to remove and/or control lead-based paint hazards in privately owned rental or owner-occupied housing units," Visclosky said.

It is common knowledge that there is a lead problem in the city, though determining the extent of the problem has been a problem for city and Michigan City Area Schools officials because only a small percentage of children have been tested.

Lead poisoning can have a number of severe health effects, and complications are most prominent in children.

The Committee on Lead was established in 2017 to help "educate the community about the dangers of lead and preventative measures to protect families from exposure to lead," Mayor Ron Meer said.

This grant money will be used to implement LeadSafe Michigan City, a program aimed at eliminating childhood lead poisoning.

"This HUD grant will allow us to expand our efforts by remediating the hazards associated with lead-based paint in homes within our community," Meer said. "We have no greater resource than our children, and I can’t think of a more important project than one that will eliminate the severe long-term health effects associated with exposure to lead at a young age.”

Michael Kuss, general manager of the Michigan City Sanitary District and a chairman of the Committee on Lead, has said the primary source of lead contamination is lead paint, especially in older homes and primarily in rental units.

LeadSafe Michigan City proposes to use the LHR Grant to initiate a new lead-reduction program and Healthy Homes interventions citywide, he said in a statement. The goal is to focus resources on neighborhoods with the highest incidence of childhood lead poisoning and/or the greatest risk of lead exposure based on state and local data.

Specifically, Kuss explained, LeadSafe Michigan City plans to use the grant money to:

  • Make 120 units lead safe
  • Protect 105 children under the age of 6 from lead hazards
  • Screen 1,500 children through lead testing
  • Train six residents as Certified Community Health Workers
  • Train 360 individuals in either lead-safe cleaning practices or lead-safe work practices
  • Assist 30 Section 3-eligible individuals and companies with obtaining professional certification to perform lead remediation
  • Conduct 126 community outreach events
  • Conduct comprehensive Healthy Homes interventions in 90 units
  • Create the LeadSafe Michigan City Housing Registry and Program webpage
  • Reach nearly 2,000 residents over the grant duration

Formal negotiations on all aspects of the grant will begin with HUD in January, and a formal grant agreement is expected to be in place by April 1, 2019.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us," Kuss said. "Hiring staff to implement LeadSafe Michigan City, creating a formal application process, implementing training, and distributing funds to remediate lead hazards are just a few of the many tasks that will be undertaken to successfully implement this program.”

Creating the Committee on Lead and "working tirelessly to secure grant funds to reduce the hazards of lead are ... examples of the excellent leadership that Mayor Meer and his administration are providing," Kuss said. "This leadership combined with a strong commitment from the City Council made this grant possible.”

“I congratulate Mayor Ron Meer and the Michigan City Committee on Lead for their dedication and diligence to successfully identify this federal resource," Visclosky said. "I hope that this grant award proves useful to support their good work to protect our environment, and all individuals and families from the dangers of lead.”

The mayor said he was "extremely excited" about news of the grant. "My administration has been committed to protecting our natural resources and to providing a safe and healthy place to live."

Young called the grant  "great news for Michigan City and its residents. We must continue to reduce and remediate lead in homes across Indiana to keep Hoosiers safe from the dangerous effects of lead exposure.”