NAUGATUCK — Hurricane Irene and the October snowstorm left the front door of 61 Hickory Lane in Naugatuck rusted, warped and in need of replacement. But as decrepit as the door was, the residing family didn’t know it could be dangerous to their health.
Thanks to a federal lead removal grant awarded to the Naugatuck Valley Health District (NVHD), the family learned that the storm-wrecked door contained lead and was able to have it removed and replaced at no cost, along with several other repairs to lead-affected areas of their 1960s Cape Cod-style home.
In addition to the front door, a second exterior door was replaced and a cellar door and basement window frames were painted to seal in the lead. The total cost of renovations totaled around $3,000 but the family didn’t have to pay a dime.
“With [my sister] being a single mom it really helped her out,” said 61 Hickory Lane resident Carey Cordeino of her sister and home-owner Alana Rozany.
NVHD, which comprises the municipalities of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Derby, Naugatuck, Seymour and Shelton, was awarded a 3-year, $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in March for home lead removal. The grant is called the Naugatuck Valley Emends Lead Hazards (NauVEL) project and its funds can help eligible homeowners to pay for lead-safe repairs in their homes.
“They tested everything,” Cordeino said of the workers employed by the health district. “They tested the yard for lead and the pipes. Getting the house tested for lead was really important to [my sister].”
Richard Adamchick, a certified lead DPA contractor, is another homeowner who utilized the lead removal program this year to have 11 windows and two exterior doors replaced, along with the completion of some minor interior work in his 1880 Cape Cod-style home on Cliff Street in Naugatuck. The value of completed work totaled around $10,500.
“They did a real nice job,” Adamchick said. “I was impressed, being a contractor … they’re efficient and they were real nice people to work with.”
In the U.S., at least 4 million households have children that are being exposed to lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children who have lead poisoning can suffer damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches and sometimes even seizure, coma or death.
Lead-based paint was banned from housing in 1978, but houses built before that time are likely to contain lead. The deterioration of the paint can cause lead dust particles to be released into the air and inhaled, which can be dangerous to all inhabitants and especially young children, according to the CDC.
According to NauVEL, census data show that 49 percent of Valley housing stock dates from 1940 to 1979, and another 23 percent is pre-1940 (and earlier) construction. With the first NauVEL grant awarded in 2009, the program was able to make repairs in 200 homes.
To qualify for the NauVEL program, homeowners must be up-to-date on mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance and qualify for income requirements. Also, children under the age of 6 must spend a significant amount of time in the home and the home must be built pre-1978 and contain lead hazards.
Along with the NauVEL grant, the health district was also awarded $180,000 in funding for Healthy Homes, a program that helps homeowners to identify and reduce other housing-related health and safety hazards like mold, allergens, lead, carbon monoxide, pesticides and radon.
“Healthy Homes addresses the health of the particular unit and focuses on weather-evasive needs,” said NauVEL program manager Deborah Dozier. “We point out those needs and try to educate [homeowners] after inspecting their homes. We’re there to educate.”
The health district is seeking contractors to pre-qualify for the next round of work by submitting licenses, certifications and other required documents. When a house is approved for remediation, the district asks its pool of pre-qualified contractors for bids on the work, quickening the process, Dozier said. In the last three yeas the district has used 12 contractors, most from outside the Valley, Dozier said.
Now in a lull between projects, the district is inspecting some houses to see if they qualify. Dozier estimated work on some houses will go out to bid in September. There is no deadline for completion of the work, but the district cannot apply for another grant before May of 2015.
“When we run out of money, that’s when it’s over,” Dozier said.
Valley homeowners can download an application for NauVEL on the Naugatuck Valley Health District website, www.nvhd.org/nauvel, or schedule an appointment at the Seymour office by calling (203) 828-9925.