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Syracuse needs more EPA certified contractors to address lead hazards faster

A man and woman with headphones on sit at a table speaking into microphones
Ashley Kang
Keenan Lewis (L) and Jessica Vinciguerra (R) join Syracuse Speaks for a panel discussion on lead poisoning in Syracuse. March 2023.

Syracuse has one of the highest rates of lead poisoning among children in the country. One of the big challenges the city faces as it addresses this issue is the workforce needed to properly remove lead hazards from homes.

The city’s old housing stock means there is a lot of work to be done by EPA certified contractors in the community. But city of Syracuse Lead Paint Program Coordinator Keenan Lewis said there simply aren’t enough licensed contractors to do that work.

"We have a lot of properties that we have to get in front of to remediate, to abate, to repair. And if we don't have licensed and certified individuals to do the work, then we're you know, we're missing the mark when we're talking about rehabbing the homes in our in our community," Lewis said.

Jessica Vinciguerra often works with those qualified contractors as the city’s Lead Grant Program Administrator. She said a number of factors go into how long it takes for a house to be clear of lead hazards. It maybe be about six months if the weather cooperates and the contractor on the job doesn’t have a heavy caseload.

However, that timeline changes if the family applying for remediation has a child that tested positive for lead poisoning.

"We do not require those blood tests to be done in order to be accepted and approved to the program because we know accessibility is an issue. We know we need to be proactive. So it's saying, 'Okay, if there's a child that is already facing being poisoned, that family gets priority,'" Vinciguerra said.

Vinciguerra said the city is currently working on about 40 approved properties and processing 25 to 30 applications for lead remediation.

You can hear more from Lewis, Vinciguerra, and other community members working to address lead poisoning in Syracuse during Syracuse Speaks at 2 p.m. on 88.3 WAER.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.