Landlords, Builders with Lead Contamination Face New Penalties, Onon County Forums on Lead Problem

Sep 4, 2019

Darlene Medley's twins tested positive for elevated lead levels. She blames landlord for not reducing known contamination.
Credit WAER file photo

Landlords that have lead contamination in their houses or apartments could find themselves the target of fines and criminal charges as Onondaga County is stepping up enforcement. Community and law enforcement officials today announced a series of forums to help landlords and builders know how to get rid of lead problems. 


County Executive Ryan McMahon says our youngest residents are the most vulnerable.

“Once these young people, and we’re really talking about children under 7- or 8-years-old, get this lead in their system, it doesn’t go anywhere and it can cause severe damage to these kids.”

(Town Halls Scheduled to Improve Community Response to Lead Poisoning Problem: Schedule Below)

McMahon says the county will start going after landlords who have buildings in which lead has been found. 

 “If someone has lead (and) they don’t fulfill their obligation to our health department to get it mitigated in the appropriate time, we’ll hold any assistance payments, not just for that unit but for any units in the building.  But sometimes for folks that’s not enough.”

District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick is going further … earlier this year he brought criminal charges against landlords for ignoring health notices.

“These people that are currently charged have literally ignored months of notices from the county, ‘you’ve got to clean this up.’  And they do a cost-benefit analysis.  (But) now it’s a criminal charge.  We can take your liberty away; we can take some of your money away.”

Series of forums to improve community response to lead problem
Credit ongov.net/health

McMahon agrees a carrot and stick approach is needed.  The carrot in this case, is funding to help mitigate lead problems, primarily in buildings built before 1978. 

Onondaga Count Town Halls:
All Events in Carrier Theater, 421 Montgomery St., Syracuse.

  • Lead-Safe Housing
    Sept. 24, 2:00 - 4:00 pm
  • Community Lead Resources
    Sept. 26, 2:00 - 4:00 pm
  • Building a Lead-Safe Community
    Oct. 1, 6:00 - 8:00 pm

Town Halls later this month will address: problems to look for; resources to help get rid of lead problems; and what contractors need to know to reduce the threat of any building they’re working on.   

McMahon says the county has $7 million to help mitigate lead problems, which includes a grant of $2 million from the  Central New York Community Foundation.  The county is seeking another $5 million in additional support for resources to reduce lead in buildings.