Thursday, June 08, 2017

City To File Parallel Criminal/Civil Charges Against Landlords Of Three Lead-Contaminated Homes, Request Injunctions Against Selected Others Over Failure To Remediate Toxic Conditions; Properties Deemed Unsafe For Habitation After Young Kids' Blood Tests Reveal High Lead Levels

In Toledo, Ohio, The Toledo Blade reports:
  • The city of Toledo and the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department plans to file criminal and civil charges against the owners of three lead-contaminated homes where children had been poisoned and continue to live in the property despite orders to vacate.

    Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson said Thursday [May 25] she authorized city prosecutors “to become more aggressive” and file charges.

    “We must use every tool we have available to ensure we reduce any incidence of lead that can adversely affect our children,” the mayor said.

    Joe Howe, city housing prosecutor declined to identify the three properties or the owners until charges are filed, which is expected to occur Friday.

    More than 500 homes in Ohio, including 27 others in Toledo, were included on a list published this month by the Ohio Department of Health that have been deemed unsafe for habitation after a child living there tested with high lead levels, and property owners failed to make required repairs.

    Health Department officials knew for months, and in some cases more than a year, that people should not be living in those lead-contaminated homes. In the oldest case, at 116 Steel St., records show that health inspectors issued a report in October, 2014, detailing lead hazards in the home.In September, health officials issued a "vacate" order for the property.

    A Blade report earlier this month found more than half of the homes in Toledo ordered vacated are currently occupied, many with children in them. Many residents said they were unaware of the vacate orders or lead issues entirely.

    Mayor Hicks-Hudson Thursday said there were missteps.

    “That is why we are here today, to put people on notice,” she said.

    Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski said families living in lead-contaminated homes need to have “safety nets” to make sure they have a new home.

    “It is all about the kids and the families,” he said. “We want to make sure we have a safety net for families that might run into issues with the remediation because you don't want to be in the house at that same point in time.”

    Mr. Zgodzinski said four of the 27 homes are vacant and some have been or are in the process of being cleaned up. The health department is still targeting 16 homes because of the lead problems.

    State law gives property owners 90 days to repair identified hazards after a risk assessment report is issued detailing results of the property inspection and required improvements. Property owners can apply for three, 90-day extensions. If those expire, the property is deemed noncompliant and orders to vacate are given. Within 14 days of that order, health department officials are to post signs on residences warning of the hazard and vacate warning.

    Mr. Howe said the property owners would be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to six month in jail and a $1,000 fine.

    “As a prosecutor, there is nothing more important than protecting children they are our most vulnerable,” he said.

    City Attorney John Madigan said the Hicks-Hudson would also file for a “civil injunction action against selected landlords,” in an attempt to keep the owners from continuing to rent the properties until the lead hazard is removed.
Source: Toledo to file charges against owners of lead-contaminated homes. paint contamination epa environmental protection agency

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