FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEENRD
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2000(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
U.S. SETTLES WITH D.C. LANDLORDS WHO DID NOT WARN
TENANTS OF LEAD PAINT RISKS
HUD, EPA Announce Enforcement Actions Under Initiative
to End Childhood Lead Poisoning
WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The Clinton Administration today announced that it has reached agreements with two landlords in the District of Columbia to settle claims that they violated federal law by failing to warn their tenants that their homes may contain lead-based paint hazards. The settlements are part of a coordinated effort by federal agencies to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. Also today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency announced administrative actions the agencies have taken under the initiative.
HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said, "This should send a clear signal to landlords that HUD takes the health of children very seriously. Every family deserves to live in a home that is safe from the threat of lead."
The settlements were filed today with complaints brought under the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act against two of Washington's largest property management companies -- Borger Management and Wm. Calomiris Corporation. The District of Columbia joined the case against Calomiris, asserting violations of District laws enacted to protect children from lead poisoning. Collectively, the companies manage about 4,500 residential units in more than 160 buildings in the District and Virginia.
Under the settlements, the companies have agreed to abate lead-based paint hazards in all of their rental units, at an estimated cost of $500,000. The companies also have committed to warn current and future tenants about the risks posed by lead-based paint, as the federal law requires.
"Landlords must meet their legal responsibility to warn tenants about any known lead paint hazard," said Lois Schiffer, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the environment at the Justice Department. "We hope today's settlements will encourage other landlords to tell their tenants about the risks of lead paint, so that our nation's children will be protected. We will continue to pursue those landlords who choose not to follow the law."
The agreements, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., also require Borger to pay a $25,000 penalty and Calomiris to pay a $5,000 penalty. Calomiris also will commit $10,000 to support community-based projects to reduce the incidence of childhood lead poisoning in the District of Columbia.
"The District is very pleased to be a part of this coordinated federal effort to protect children and other affected populations from the harm resulting from lead-based paint," said Robert R. Rigsby, corporation counsel for the District. "Mayor Anthony A. Williams made a commitment to the children of the District of Columbia to improve the quality of life for them and this is one of the many steps that he is taking. We are proud to be part of this massive enforcement effort."
The settlements filed today are the latest in a series of actions the federal government has taken to protect children and others who are the most vulnerable to harm from exposure to lead-based paint. The nationwide effort involves the cooperation of the Department of Justice, including the United States Attorneys' Offices, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and state and local governments around the country.
As part of the joint initiative, HUD announced today that it will impose a $34,800 penalty in an administrative proceeding against the American Rental Management Company of the District of Columbia. The penalty was imposed for violations of the federal lead disclosure law in two buildings representing 1,232 units managed by American Rental. As part of the resolution of this matter, American Rental agreed to spend $63,000 to fix lead hazards in "The Chastleton"-- a 300- unit property it manages.
In a separate action, the EPA announced today that it has filed an administrative case seeking $128,920 in monetary penalties under the federal lead disclosure law against San-Tex Lumber Company, a property management firm in San Antonio, Texas. This EPA enforcement action affects more than 300 residential units.
"Lead poisoning is perhaps the greatest environmental threat facing America's children today," said Steve Herman, EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "We will make sure that those who avoid their legal responsibility to alert people to potential lead contamination will be held fully accountable."
Childhood lead poisoning is the most common environmental disease of young children, eclipsing all other environmental health hazards found at home. Lead poisoning causes reduced intelligence, low attention span, reading and learning disabilities, and it has been linked to juvenile delinquency, behavioral problems, and many other adverse health effects. At high exposure levels, lead poisoning can cause coma, convulsion and death. The vast majority of childhood lead poisoning cases, however, go undiagnosed and untreated because most poisoned children have no obvious symptoms. The most common method for assessing a child's exposure to lead is measuring the level of lead in the blood.
Wilma A. Lewis, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, said, "Our commitment to holding landlords accountable for the conditions in which their tenants live is part of a multi-agency collaborative effort to improve the quality of life for the residents and citizens of the District of Columbia. Landlords who fail to take appropriate corrective and preventive measures can be assured of receiving our attention, because the safety and well-being of some of our most vulnerable citizens is paramount."
Congress enacted the Lead Hazard Reduction Act to increase awareness and provide simple recommendations for families to reduce the likelihood of lead poisoning. Since then, HUD and EPA have undertaken extensive educational outreach involving landlords and housing groups to raise awareness of the problem. The Act requires sellers and landlords of most housing built before 1978 to disclose information about the known presence of lead-based paint and its associated hazards before the sale or lease of a home. In addition, sellers and landlords are required to provide home buyers and tenants with an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet describing the dangers of lead-based paint. Sellers must also provide purchasers with a 10-day opportunity to conduct a risk assessment or lead-based paint inspection before the purchaser is obligated under any purchase contract.
The primary source of childhood lead poisoning is deteriorating lead-based paint and the lead-contaminated dust and soil it generates. Lead-based paint was used extensively before 1960, and then its use declined until it was banned by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission in 1978. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 890,000 children under the age of six in the United States have blood lead levels that exceed the limits established by the CDC. Children in low-income families living in older housing, where lead-based paint is most prevalent, are four times more likely to have elevated blood lead levels than those in other areas.
For more information, call 1-800-424-LEAD or visit the HUD web site at www.hud.gov/lea or the EPA web site at www.epa.gov/lead