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Poisoned houses in Ohio

Without enforcement, houses become serial poisoners
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The situation

Slowly Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is releasing the addresses of houses which they have determined to be contaminated with lead. Getting these addresses has been a twenty year effort as ODH has clung to the notion that the addresses were protected under the Federal "Health Information Protection Act" (HIPAA).

In April, ODH released a list of XXX addresses in XX jurisdictions. Each of the properties was under a vacate order.  A quick review by officials in Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus revealed that most were still occupied by families whidh had no idea that their homes had been found to be hazardous to human health.

What are the issues?
  • Relocation assistance for families
  • Testing and counselfing for families
  • Prosecution of owners
  • Relentless monitoring by city officials




  Poisoned Houses in the News
Task force to review Toledo health department's policies
"A series of Blade reports last month found the health department failed to check on about two dozen Toledo homes with orders to vacate because of untreated lead hazards while many families continued to live in them. Since then, the department has announced updated procedures to better enforce such vacate orders, and three property owners now face first-degree misdemeanor charges for allowing tenants to stay after vacate orders."

Mother of a poisoned child speaks out
Cleveland.com reports: " 'You would think the city is like 'I don't want children to be sick' and just look out. We should be looking out for each other, we're a community.' Instead, she said, the city puts efforts into things like doling out tickets to people who don't put out their trash cans properly. 'And you think if they're noticing this [proper trash disposal], of course they are taking all the action to make sure my family is safe but they're not...They are just like making quick bucks here or there for fines and it's not fair.'
Legal Aid lawyers say the suit was filed now, in part, because of the glacial pace at which the city was moving to address its failures in responding to a significant lead poisoning problem. And that, despite more than a year of attention to the issue, city health officials still were not following basic rules or the state laws in place to protect children once they are poisoned in homes, day cares or schools."

Toledo prosecutes landlords who rented lead poisoned houses after a vacate notice.
According to the Blade. "State law gives property owners 90 days to repair identified hazards after a risk assessment report is issued detailing results of the property inspection and required improvements. Property owners can apply for three, 90-day extensions. If those expire, the property is deemed noncompliant and orders to vacate are given. Within 14 days of that order, officials are to post signs on residences warning of the hazard and vacate warning. Mr. Howe said the property owners would be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. 'As a prosecutor, there is nothing more important than protecting children. They are our most vulnerable,” he said. Mr. Howe said the goal is to have the residents move to other safe homes or apartments. He said the renters were 
'surprised to learn and never notified' the homes had high lead levels."


Cleveland Legal Aid sues the City for Failure to Enforce Vacate Orders
Cleveland.com reports: "The city has, for more than six months, failed to protect a toddler it knew was harmed by lead hazards in her West Side rental home, according to the lawsuit, filed Thursday afternoon in the Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals. But the case isn't about one child. It is about hundreds of children living in the city who are potentially affected by years of city inaction, attorneys say."

A more recent list of delinquent lead remediation orders includes XXX Cleveland properties which have been inviolation for more than 90 days, but never issued a vacate notice.
Asked about plans to prosecute the 39 delinquent Cleveland landlords, Health Director Merle Gordon told Cleveland Lead Safe Network that "a case has been prepared for each property."


 Notes & Links

ODH Hazardous Properties
Ilink

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