Dec. 16, 2015
More Than 20,000 Signatures on Petition Calling for Environmental Agencies to Protect Families Exposed to Dangerously High Lead Levels
Organizations Deliver Petitions To Environmental Agencies Regarding Property Company That Redeveloped Mill Where Residents Were Exposed to Lead Levels More Than 600 Times Legal Limit
Washington, D.C. – More than 20,000 concerned citizens, including New England residents, today called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state environmental agencies to take aggressive steps to investigate a company’s lead policies following an incident that left residents of a Manchester, N.H., building exposed to alarming levels of toxic lead dust earlier this year.
Today, Public Citizen, Clean Water Action and the New England Regional Council of Carpenters delivered petition signatures from their members and supporters to EPA Region 1 staff and state environmental regulators, demanding that Brady Sullivan Properties, a large developer of residential and commercial property, be held accountable for exposing its residents to high lead dust levels in the Mill West complex in New Hampshire, a mixed-use building on the site of a former mill. In addition, the groups urged a thorough audit of all properties in the region owned or managed by Brady Sullivan to ensure that no other New England families are exposed to lead pollution where proper management could prevent the tragic health impacts associated with the dangerous neurotoxin.
New Hampshire Public Radio reported that the property was the site ofthe biggest known lead hazard in recent New England history. One spot tested showed a lead level more than 600 times the legal limit.
Brady Sullivan hired a contractor to sandblast lead paint off the walls of lower floors apartments – even as the upper part of the building was occupied by families, including children and a pregnant woman. The contractor did not have a proper permit to sandblast and its employees apparently lacked the proper training required.
Lead is a neurotoxin that causes permanent, irreversible brain damage. Any amount of lead in a child’s bloodstream is, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unsafe. Lead also is highly toxic for adults.
Tenants, mistrusting Brady Sullivan’s assurances that sandblasters were following protocol, tested for lead in and around several apartments. The tests – plus the revelation that the contractor lacked a proper city permit – resulted in the Manchester Health Department putting a stop to the sandblasting in May. The EPA has since issued an enforcement action to require Brady Sullivan to clean up the existing lead dust contamination.
“There’s no excuse for choosing to cut corners and put people’s health in jeopardy when sandblasting lead paint,” said Susan Harley, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “I hope state and federal regulators audit all of the Brady Sullivan properties. If corporations are found to be reckless and to have put families and workers in harm’s way, they must be held accountable.”
“Lead is one of the best-studied toxic chemicals, with a well-documented track record of damaging generations of exposed children,” said Cindy Luppi, New England director of Clean Water Action. “We hope that the Environmental Protection Agency takes aggressive enforcement actions in the wake of this senseless tragedy and that the audit of all Brady Sullivan properties moves forward to prevent other New England families from experiencing this kind of health trauma.”
“In Manchester and across New England, behind Brady Sullivan’s multimillion-dollar taxpayer-funded projects are a lot of problems for the underpaid workers who build them and the taxpayers who pay for them. And now, sadly, the tenants at Mill West are exposed to the biggest known lead hazard in recent New England history,” said David Minasian, organizer for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.“The lead dust incident at Mill West is not surprising as Brady Sullivan’s business model is based on maximizing profits by hiring low-road contractors that cut corners to increase profits. Unfortunately this approach has endangered workers and now has put their tenants at risk.”
Though the EPA has issued a cleanup order, the organizations’ petition signers urged the EPA and state environmental regulators to undertake a full audit of Brady Sullivan’s many converted mill properties in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and levy appropriate fines against Brady Sullivan to hold it accountable and to ensure that no more of its residents or workers are exposed to dangerous levels of lead.