Lead paint leads to end of programs

Howell seeks estimates
to remediate issue at
recreation building

Staff Writer

Lead paint
leads to end
of programs
Howell seeks estimates
to remediate issue at
recreation building
Staff Writer

HOWELL — All children’s activities at the township’s recreation center have been canceled temporarily due to the detection of lead paint in the building.

Jeffrey Filiatreault, the township’s chief financial officer and deputy township manager, told the Township Council at its Oct. 20 meeting that the lead paint was discovered during a recent state inspection at the building.

Recreation Director Helene Schlegel, who also was present at the Oct. 20 meeting, told Mayor Timothy Konopka and members of the council that statewide inspections were being conducted at all child care buildings that were built before 1978, when lead paint was still being used.

Schlegel said the Monmouth County Health Department had been at the recreation center on Oct. 20 to do its own inspection.

She said she had been instructed by the state health department to contact the parents of all children who have participated in township recreation activities at the building to give them information concerning blood testing for lead. Schlegel said letters had gone out on Oct. 20 informing parents of the situation.

While state and county health officials did not think it necessary to suspend all children’s programs until remediation of the building was finished, Schlegel said it seemed, "appropriate now to give parents that comfort level."

Therefore, she said, the Tiny Tots afternoon play time and the arts and crafts program are being suspended. Schlegel said the township was erring on the side of caution by suspending the programs until the threat was remediated.

Furthermore, she encouraged the parents of all children who were involved in programs at the recreation building to be tested for lead poisoning, just to be safe.

"We don’t want to alarm people because the amount of exposure most likely is that no one would be affected with lead poisoning," said Schlegel.

She said the county health department will pick up the cost of testing any children who are not covered by their family’s health insurance.

The building had been tested in June, but she had not been notified of the results until this month, she said.

The township has to have a remediation plan submitted to the state within 30 days from the date of the Oct. 13 notification, she said.

Councilman Joseph M. DiBella asked Filiatreault to investigate if the township could be compensated for the expense of the remediation.

Councilman Juan Malave inquired if, instead of canceling the recreation programs, the staff could use another township building.

Because the recreation programs are held during the day, Schlegel said, using other buildings such as the library may not be possible, due to limits on the hours of operation.

Filiatreault noted that with the exception of the municipal justice building, which houses the police and court, all other township buildings were built before 1978 and would, therefore, have to be tested for the presence of lead before officials could relocate the children’s programs.

Konopka asked if there were any imminent danger to any of the adult staff still occupying the building.

Schlegel said the most imminent danger was for young children who might ingest lead paint chips.

Filiatreault said state officials explained to the staff that their concern about lead exposure was only for children under the age of 13 whose brains were still developing.

When asked by Konopka for an approximate cost of the remediation, Filiatreault said he did not know, but would have to wait for estimates to know the costs involved. The township is currently soliciting estimates.

Filiatreault said he has spoken with Township Manager Bruce Davis, who had been away from the office for a couple of days before the Oct. 20 meeting, who told him to remind the governing body that there is also a report that indicates there is a lead problem not only in town hall, but in other township buildings.