BATAVIA — Genesee and Orleans counties may apply for a new grant to help the county Health Department promote lead-safe homes and help prevent to help childhood lead poisoning.

“This is an in-process joint application similar to the HUD grant we received for Genesee and Orleans counties. We are potentially applying for the GLOW region and will be asking for approximately $1 million over the five-year grant,” Orleans County Public Health Educator/Public Information Officer Nola Goodrich-Kresse said today.

Public Health Director Paul Pettit said a five-year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant came out a couple of weeks ago.

“This is more on the prevention side. This will allow us to do more encouragement, education on lead testing, developing policies and working with different communities around lead-safe homes ...” Pettit told the Human Services Committee Monday. “It’s really core public health work that we do anyways. In addition, we’re looking to include Livingston County and possibly Wyoming County, so that should be a fore-county collaborative effort (to include Orleans County as well).

Pettit said the CDC grant, if the county applies for and gets it, would overlap with a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant the county received last year.

“This (the CDC grant) is on the front end. Once we identify and find these lead-poisoned children in homes, we’d be able to use the HUD funding, if they’re income eligible to potentially help them fix the house and reduce the lead hazard,” he said. “I think the application’s due mid-April and I’m not sure of the turnaround time when we find out (whether the grant is awarded).”

Pettit said Genesee County Health Department Lead Coordinator Darren Brodie would oversee the grant if awarded.

“We already have the basic infrastructure, so this would add additional capacity into that ... and focus more on the prevention side, where the HUD grant is actually fixing the problem,” he said.

Committee member John Deleo noted the lead program has been going on for awhile and asked if the health department knew a percentage for what it had accomplished.

Pettit said any house built before 1978 is potentially a lead hazard and must be fully remediated.

“We have the oldest housing stock in the country, really, in the New York area. We’re the first ones to develop and build, so we have older houses,” he said. “I think the last (figure) was about 75-78 percent of our homes were pre-’78, That number, obviously, is lowering since we add new housing stock. Ultimately, it’s a big challenge especially in our city and more in our villages, where you have the condensed areas. I don’t have the numbers in front of me. I can get them for you.”

The public health director said the program is making progress. He noted the state lowered the lead poisoning threshold for elevated blood-lead levels from 15 to 5 parts per million.

“One thing with COVID, we did not see a lot of additional lead cases because no one was going to the doctor and getting their lead test,” he said. “It’s not really a good thing, because we weren’t able to identify these kids that potentially may have been lead poisoned living in these homes. Primary care visits just went on pause ... as everything else did.”

Pettit said the expectation a year and a half ago was a tenfold increase in the level of lead-poisoned kids, with the level lowered from 15 to 5 micrograms per deciliter.

“We do expect to see, as ... lead poison testing picks back up again, we’re definitely going to see an increase of activity,” he said. “With the lead level down to 5, our environmental sanitarians, once we get a 5, we send them out to do a full housing assessment. They put together a notice-and demand and remediation plan for the homeowner and/or landlord on how to abate the problem and ultimately reduce the lead hazard to whatever child may be living there.”

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