CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland appeared to stand alone in its policy of not posting warning signs on homes with unaddressed lead hazards.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer interviewed seven city and county health departments, finding all post warning placards on hazardous properties identified by the Ohio Department of Health.
State law requires warning signs on properties listed. The properties must be vacated if a hazard is found and not cleaned up.
Toledo-Lucas County, Canton City, Columbus and Cuyahoga County health departments placarded all homes listed. Many of the departments interviewed have programs in place to help people find housing.
“We see it as part of our responsibility to make sure the people living in these homes are taken care of,” said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for the Columbus Public Health Department.
Rashmi Aparajit, director of Cincinnati’s lead program, said his department is working to reduce lead exposure and identify what caused the hazard.
“Our goal is to eliminate childhood lead poisoning, not create homelessness,” Aparajit said.
Children who stay in homes with known lead hazards can develop health, behavioral and learning problems that last a lifetime. City and state records show 340 Cleveland homes that were known to be hazardous poisoned more than one child.
City officials told the Plain Dealer eight months ago that they would post warning signs. Officials said they were stepping up enforcement and addressing a backlog of 3,000 lead poisoning cases.
The state department of health helped investigate a few cases for Cleveland to help with the case backlog. The department ordered four city properties to be vacated.
The state health department listed 23 properties with orders to vacate, however it is unclear if city or state officials issued the orders.
City officials said they have not placarded any properties and gave the Plain Dealer multiple reasons as to why they are violating state law in April.
“Our view is that placarding is the very last thing we would want to do to displace tenants in these properties,” said Merle Gordon, city health director.
Public affairs chief Natoya Walker Minor said the city has just been too busy.
“We haven’t really had time to breathe,” Minor said.
Declining immediate comment, the Cleveland city spokesman said the city would respond in the “next few weeks.”
Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com