Protect Delawareans from lead poisoning

After July, we gave our readers a vacation from emails, focusing Green Delaware’s presence primarily on Facebook.  Today is the first day of Fall and emails are back.

Please take a few minutes to read Sarah Bucic’s op ed below and prod Governor John Carney to take action. Attention is focused on the Governor as the DNREC has failed for many months to take action.

This is yet another example of the vegetable-like indifference of Delaware regulators to health and environmental problems. (Hmmmm, what do I have against vegetables?) Even when well-informed citizens make an issue of an obvious problem, little or nothing happens. (Note that the lead paint problem does not apply only to water towers, but also to bridges and other structures.)

We will try to get a statement from DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin, if he is not too busy sucking up to developers and polluters to respond to citizens.

Action Steps

What YOU can do is call the office of Governor John Carney demanding immediate action:

(302) 577-3210 (Wilmington) (302) 744-4101 (Dover),

send him an email: john.carney@state.de.us, or

put a comment on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JohnCarneyGov/

Lead paint sandblasting on water towers remains an environmental hazard: Delaware Voice

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Lead is so dangerous that it has been banned in gasoline and indoor paint.

However, Delaware residents continue to remain unprotected by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which does not prevent lead contamination of surrounding communities during sandblasting of water towers.

DNREC’s “lead loophole” prevents permitting and state oversight during sandblasting of water towers or any outdoor structure. Communities in Delaware have already experienced the impacts.

I discovered this loophole last year when a Suez water employee knocked on my door to tell me workers were sandblasting a water tank directly next to my home. When I asked the employee if the paint contained lead, he said it did — and that nobody had asked him that before.

Utilizing the Freedom of Information Act, a 2016 incident in Newark where containment was breached has been discovered. Lead chips, dust and grit were widely spread in at least one residential yard during water tower sandblasting.

Soil remediation has yet to be performed, even though it has been more than a year. We also learned that DNREC was never notified that hazardous materials were released onto a residential property.

While the secretary of DNREC has been made aware of this situation, DNREC continues to defer any decision on how they will proceed with state oversight over water tower sandblasting. As a result, private companies and municipalities can contaminate your yard without ever having to tell you what occurred, what health hazards your family may be facing or any impact on property values.

Back in April, Secretary Shawn Garvin promised that in the least, a best-practices model would be implemented by the end of June and community notification guidelines regarding sandblasting of lead structures would be initiated. Now, nearly three months later, DNREC has become silent on the issue.

The situation in Newark has revealed a worst-case scenario and why we need permitting for these projects. In June, upon learning about the problem of lead paint sandblasting in 2016 and the lead release into a residential yard, the city of Newark’s Conservation Advisory Commission recommended to Newark City Council that they expand notification requirements of projects that handle lead and explain the risks of lead paint exposure. The CAC also recommended that DNREC take on the regulation of water tower refurbishment to ensure protection of public health.

Now that DNREC is aware of the lead release in Newark in 2016, the agency should be taking action to ensure that the cleanup of the residential property is conducted in a manner that is thorough and that reduces any future potential for exposure.

Other states, such as Minnesota, are able to better manage the risks of sandblasting water towers that contain lead paint. Minnesota requires public notification of lead paint removal within a perimeter surrounding all water towers. They also provide families with actions they can take to protect themselves thus minimizing health risk. Minnesota also has additional requirements for lead paint removal near schools and day care facilities.

DNREC, at the very least, should be able to initiate a process that describes how they will take action to protect Delaware’s children from exposure to lead paint chips, grit and dust. This process should include permitting and regulatory oversight, community notification requirements, and health and safety plans to ensure the protection of public health. Containment measures, transportation and disposal of hazardous waste, along with air pollution monitoring are bare minimum measures to protect public health.

In the coming weeks, the city of Newark will be reviewing its own procedures for sandblasting lead paint. With two new lead paint sandblasting projects on water towers in the near future (Scottfield and Arbour Park), this discussion may prevent a repeat of the 2016 release into a neighboring yard. However, with over 160 water towers in the state, this is an issue that affects Delawareans in all three counties. We were able to access information about the Newark water towers because it is a municipal government, but many of the state’s water towers are privately owned.

If you live in Newark, you can contact your city council member and ask that steps be taken to prevent lead exposure. Garvin, the secretary of DNREC, should also be interested in your concerns about the oversight of lead paint sandblasting in Delaware’s communities.

Sarah Bucic, a Wilmington resident, has been a registered nurse since 2001 and has a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in psychiatric mental health nursing. 

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