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Lead prompts warning about kids playing outside

Posted at 7:18 PM, Feb 08, 2016

Several residents who live near a former lead smelting facility in the Fillmore District of Buffalo are being notified by the EPA that tests reveal elevated levels of lead contamination on their properties.

The tests were carried out by the EPA after requests by the City of Buffalo and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to assess the off-site impacts of lead smelting at three former foundry/smelter operations; Lumen Bearing Company, 197 Lathrop Street, Buffalo; The Reliance Lead, Solder and Babbitt Company, 397 Genesee Street; Lake Erie Smelting Corporation, 29 Superior Street (now William Street), Buffalo.

As to the Lumen Bearing site which is now fenced in, EPA spokesperson Mike Basile said, "We discovered high levels of lead on the site.  No surprise to us."

However, the EPA also found elevated levels of lead in the surrounding neighborhood. "We did find elevated of lead in numerous residential properties around the former Lumen site."

Shameka Davis lives near the site where the lead was found. She's concerned about what's in her soil. "I had no idea there was anything wrong with the water," Davis said. "I'm disgusted and disturbed."

In a letter sent to only few residents in the area, the EPA says people, especially with children, should:

  • keep children away from bare soil
  • maintain grass
  • don't let children play on the lawn after mowing or raking
  • have children between six months and six years regularly tested for lead
  • was things that come in contact with a child's mouth, like toys

Davis says she has children who regularly stay at her house, and she didn't receive a letter like this. "It would have been nice and informative," she said. "This was all new to me."

According to Basile, a forensic science examination determined the residential lead contamination does not have the same "fingerprint" as the lead found on the Lumen property.

So, where could it have come from?

It could have come from a variety of possibilities, said Basile; historic fill, air deposits from other industrial facilities, lead-based paint and from years of people using leaded gasoline.

The EPA has notified the affected residents and provided them guidelines from the Erie County Health Department which urge residents to, among other things, get kids tested, wash face and hands frequently, and avoid disturbing the soil.

The EPA said it hopes to come up with an action-plan to deal with the Lumen site within the next few months.