WBFO: "Local organizations call for City of Buffalo to comply with lead inspection law"

Date: February 13, 2024

Thomas O'Neil-White | February 13, 2024

The City of Buffalo could face legal action if it does not comply with a law it enacted four years ago.

The Proactive Rental Inspections Law was passed by the Common Council and put in place, in part, to reduce childhood lead poisoning due to lead-based paint hazards.

According to Health Data New York over 200 children in the City of Buffalo suffer from lead poisoning each year.

A 2017 Reuters national report declared Buffalo one of the more dangerous lead hotspots in America, even more dangerous than Flint, Michigan.

39 local organizations rallied at Niagara Square Tuesday to call on the city comply with the P.R.I. Law.

Partnership for the Public Good Executive Director Andrea O Suilleabhain hand delivered letters to Mayor Byron Brown and Department of Permit and Inspection Services Commissioner Catherine Amdur.

“The implementation since 2020 has been painfully slow,” O Suilleabhain said. “Only 12% of units that were supposed to be inspected under this law had been done so far. So, our letter says, please give us documentation within 30 days of how this law will be meaningfully implemented from here on out.”

Comprehensive Lead testing did not begin until the Lead-based Paint Poisoning and Prevention Act of 1971. The P.R.I. covers 36,000 rental units in the city, all of which were built before 1979.

O Suilleabhain said her group continues to have discussions with city officials but has learned the city is lacking inspectors to do the job.

“They only have two or three inspectors assigned to do this type of proactive interior inspection,” she said. “And we know that when the city adopted this in 2020, they had a plan to do 36,000 units in six years, which would take eight inspectors to do so there's a budget issue. There's actually vacant positions in the city budget for the inspection department, they haven't filled those to have more inspectors to assign to this program.”

In the interim, O Suilleabhain said her partners in the community health field are out educating people on how to prevent lead poisoning.

“Even taking your shoes off at the door because some soil in Buffalo has lead. Washing toys, washing hands and then wiping especially under windows, where with Buffalo’s old wood frame windows, when there's lead paint, and you're sliding them up and down, this dust comes off. Kids crawling in that sucking on their hands. So, there are simple steps. But it will be an everyday battle for parents to keep up with that until more landlords have made these repairs.”

And if the city does not comply O Suilleabhain said the next step is to take the fight to the courts.

“If the city does not comply, we are prepared to look at legal action to enforce this law,” she said. “We have used every traditional advocacy tool that we can, as you will know there has been relentless media stories about lead poisoning in Buffalo for 10 years. 30 years when you go back into media records. We've been in the [Common] Council, we've been with the department so there's not much left except to really keep pushing in the media and explore legal action.”

Read the WBFO article on their website, here.