Associated Press

The federal Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that its effort to clean up lead paint in the Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine could stretch into July.

The EPA will arrive in the area in as little as a week, spokeswoman Emily Bender said. The agency has said the Lewiston-Auburn area, which has about 60,000 residents, has the most incidences in the state of children younger than 6 who have elevated blood lead levels.

The EPA has said it will conduct inspections of renovation, painting and property management companies to make sure they are complying with federal safety rules. The agency might also make sure landlords and property managers are complying with disclosure rules about the presence of lead-based paint.

Bender said the EPA’s effort also will focus on education about the hazards associated with lead exposure, which can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities in children.

“We are currently scheduling inspections as we speak,” she said. “We’re focused on education about lead, about the impacts of lead and about the steps one can take to make sure they are in compliance.”

Lead paint is a major concern in the Lewiston-Auburn area because of the age of the housing stock, Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said. Lead paint is often present in buildings built before 1978, the year it was banned.

Barrett said more than $3.2 million in federal funds has been made available to help property owners abate lead in the area. He said the city and nonprofit groups also are focusing on outreach about the dangers of lead paint.

“Given the amount of old housing stock that we have we know it’s going to be impossible to come up with the funds to completely eliminate lead,” Barrett said. “So we need to focus on educating.”

The EPA has undertaken similar efforts in the areas of New Haven, Connecticut, and Nashua, New Hampshire, in recent years. Public health authorities have been focusing on lead exposure after a water poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The federal agency also is monitoring for cases of unsafe lead levels elsewhere in Maine as well as in New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut, Bender said. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have their own versions of the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.


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