Addressing concerns over lead in Greenport Village

Like many residents in the Village of Greenport, Anna Evenhouse and her husband Sten own an older home. With its vintage charm comes an inherent risk: the possibility of lead-based paint.

The couple began thinking recently about the effects lead could have in their home as well as its prevalence in the village and what steps could be taken to combat it.

Homes built before 1940 are 87 percent more likely to contain lead-based paint, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Those built between 1940-1959 are 69 percent more likely, and those built between 1960 to 1977 are 24 percent more likely than newer homes to contain lead-based paint.

“The level of lead that is safe is basically zero now,” Ms. Evenhouse said. “Lead can seriously harm your child’s health, so that’s why we’re here. We want to take steps to make Greenport safe for the kids.”

Ms. Evenhouse spoke Saturday morning at an event at Floyd Memorial Library to provide a forum for residents to discuss lead, its potential threat and how to approach it.

As the couple began researching more about the risks associated with lead, they learned their friends, Jeff and Selina Truelove, shared similar concerns. Together, the two couples put together the library’s first community conversation with the goal of educating the community about risks associated with lead exposure, as well as coming up with ways to combat the health issue.

One of those ways to work toward eliminating lead is through a free course offered to Greenport contractors to certify them under the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule. A minimum of five contractors are needed to have the free session.

“The EPA has tried to protect children, but also not overburden the homeowner,” Mr. Evenhouse said. “They put the burden of compliance onto the contractor, the landlord and the realtor, rather than the homeowner.”

This includes making sure painters use HEPA vacuums and cover furniture and other household items with plastic to ensure and lead-based paint that may be in the home is removed.

Additionally, New York State requires children ages 1 and 2 to be tested for elevated levels of lead. Megan Hays, a nurse practitioner at Peconic Pediatrics, said in addition to testing young children, parents complete an annual questionnaire until their children are 6 years old.

Greenport Village Administrator Paul Pallas said Southold Town received a nearly $600,000 grant from New York State as part of the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 to replace lead water services. A service runs from the water main in the street to the meter in the house, Mr. Pallas said.

He said this money should cover about 80 services throughout Southold Town and Fishers Island, with the majority expected to be done in Greenport.

The program includes testing, and residents will receive a letter notifying them that the program exists and that they should contact the Town or Village to get on the list to have their water and pipes tested. If lead is found, the pipes can then be replaced.

The tests and replacements will be completed on a first come, first serve basis.

“The good thing is this can continue year after year,” Mr. Pallas said. “So the idea is to get the idea out to as many people as possible to make it successful. The more successful it is, the more likely we’re going to get the grant again next year.”

Photo caption: Selina Truelove of Greenport, left, at Saturday’s meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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