EPA investigating complaint over questionable lead paint removal
BATON ROUGE - A man is upset and fears for his child's health after he says a crew did not properly remove lead paint from a house.
When Mat Keel's son was seven months old, he tested positive for lead poisoning. Keel says his neighbor, who was a landlord, removed all the paint on the house with a power washer.
"Any amount of lead is really dangerous, so we spent about a year of him having to undergo a little bit of treatment. And I had to take him to get his blood tested, as an infant, once a month," Keel said.
That's why he's concerned about how the paint was removed from the property directly behind his free art space on Government Street.
"None of the workers I observed, in the early days, wore masks," he said. "And I could see from my property looking over the fence there were paint chips everywhere."
Fearing it was lead paint, Keel says he got it tested.
"This is extreme, an extreme amount of contamination."
Photos and videos he took show workers with paint chips covering the ground and covered in dust. Given his prior experience with lead paint, Keel said he was concerned about that paint contaminating the air and the ground around the property. He thinks more precautions should have been taken.
For the last two months, Keel has been contacting various agencies about his concerns. He was turned down by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which says it does not regulate homeowner projects involving lead paint. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initially told Keel that they don't have jurisdiction either. But, just this week, it confirmed it is investigating Keel's complaint.
"I simply want to see this cleaned up, I want to see the EPA take this seriously," Keel said.
Mikeal Adams with Region 6 of the EPA says any building constructed before 1978 could contain lead-based paint and that if someone wants to remove it, they should hire a professional.
"That ensures they will clean up to a very specific level and not leave behind any of the toxic dust," Adams said.
The EPA says it's required to cover the ground or floors to ensure no dust is left behind.
"The lead that's in paint never goes away," Adams said. "If you create dust that does have lead paint in it and that dust hits the floor, the ground, wherever it's at it stays there."
The developer, Anthony Kimble of Kimble Properties, LLC, tells 2 On Your Side that even though he didn't receive a positive test for lead paint, crews were provided with a mask, the paint was wet before it was removed, the paint chips were bagged and properly disposed of according to code, and the house has been primed and painted with two fresh coats of paint.
Keel hopes that all the necessary EPA precautions are taken with future rehab in the area.
"We're in no way opposed to people fixing up houses. Our imperative is to ensure that someone [who] has a plan to develop 100 houses follows EPA rules," Keel said.
The EPA says the maximum fine involving lead paint is $40,000 per violation. Check back with 2 On Your Side for an update on the EPA's investigation.
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