Thursday, February 14, 2019

New Haven Lawmakers Question Costly Lead Project

apartment building exterior view
New Haven city officials and public advocates are embroiled in a debate
over the costs and process of a single apartment's lead abatement.

In Connecticut, lawmakers and public health officials are engaged in a debate of the possible mismanagement of public funds for lead abatement. The city of New Haven spent $32,000 on the abatement of a single apartment. According to the New Haven Public Department, the abatement was a court-ordered, emergency procedure that was successfully completed; however, lawmakers assert that the project was too costly, too slow, and a symbol of the inadequate response to a growing lead poisoning crisis in Connecticut.

The clash centers around a New Haven apartment, which was recommended for lead abatement in August 2017 after a child tenant tested positive for lead. According to New Haven Health Department officials, Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the health department to take over the project in July 2018 and relocated the child tenant and his family to a nearby hotel for the rest of the project. Between the relocation and the abatement, the total cost of the project amounted to roughly $62,000.

"Nothing was out of the ordinary [about the project]," Paul Kowalski, New Haven City Director of Environmental Health, said in a recent press release.

Lawmakers and advocates disagree. At a City Hall committee hearing, legal aid attorneys from the New Haven Legal Assistance Association (NHLAA) raised the question of why the abatement process took a full year to complete.

"What we're looking for is an open and transparent conversation," Amy Marx, NHLAA attorney, said in a recent press release.

City officials were unable to directly answer why the abatement process took so long. They were also unable to clearly answer why the project ended up in litigation and resulted in a court-ordered emergency abatement.

Regarding the steep project cost, city officials state that the apartment is located in a historic district so the abatement work had to meet certain standards set by the State Historic Preservation Office. Furthermore, the city put a lien against the property after the abatement to recoup the costs. The property was sold for $210,000 which reimbursed the city for the project costs.

"The property was sold, and the city was paid in full for all the money that we put up for the abatement and for the relocation," Frank D'Amore, Deputy Director of the New Haven Livable City Initiative said in a recent press release.

Legal advocates are still concerned over the high price tag, which they imply came from the eleventh-hour abatement. A slow and inconsistent response, they allege, is fueling a lead poisoning crisis in New Haven. The child tenant in question tested at 6 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood back in August 2017, which is already one microgram higher than the federal blood lead level response trigger. By July 2018, the child tenant reached 17 mg/dL.

NHLAA reviewed data from the Connecticut Department of Health and said that there may be more than 350 children in New Haven suffering from lead poisoning in similar situations.

The New Haven Health Department has previously come under fire from three separate state judges. In the past, the city was nearly held in contempt of the court for its inadequate lead paint inspections, its failure to keep electronic records of its lead paint related notes, and its failure to follow up on the status of abated properties.

To learn more about the committee meeting, visit the original article in the New Haven Independent or read the minutes from the New Haven Registrar. To learn more about lead abatement and how to get involved in this important field, visit Zack Academy.

Georgia Requires Green Building for Public Housing

As part of its public funding plan, Georgia will require housing projects to
earn a sustainable building certification in order to qualify for tax credits.

Last week, the state of Georgia announced a new rule that will help bring energy efficiency and sustainability to undeserved communities. The new rule requires Georgia housing projects to earn a sustainable building certification in order to qualify for tax credits.

The new guideline is part of Georgia's 2019 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP), which determines which housing projects qualify to receive Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Under Georgia's 2019 QAP, sustainable building certification is a mandatory requirement for housing projects. LEED is one of several certification options. In addition to meeting the certification requirement, housing projects are required under the QAP to engage in tenant and building manager education in compliance with sustainability program. This will help foster participation in the energy efficiency programs provided to these communities.

The new rule echoes the 2019 goals of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which are outlined in the QAP. The Department of Community Affairs seeks "better health outcomes" for its residents through thoughtful site selection and site design. These objectives reflected goals that are supported through LEED certification. 

Georgia has historically been a leader for LEED and green building. In 2017, Georgia was named one of the Top 10 States for LEED with more than 71 certified projects. This year, Georgia will host the annual Greenbuild conference, one of the biggest sustainable design conferences in the industry.

To learn more about Georgia's sustainable building certification, visit the Qualified Allocation Plan. To learn more about sustainable design and how to get involved in this dynamic career path, visit Zack Academy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

New Law Tackles Lead Service Lines in Washington D.C.

lead service lines faucet bathroom sink
Washington D.C.'s new lead service line law brings awareness
to prospective homeowners while helping current property
owners replace their toxic lead pipes.

Recently, Washington D.C. passed a new law concerning lead service lines on residential properties. The new law requires property owners to disclose the presence of lead service lines to prospective homeowners and renters. The law also codifies financial support for homeowners who received partial lead service line replacements so that their pipes can be fully abated.

Under the new law, property owners renting out residences must provide a lead disclosure form before the prospective tenant is bound by any contract to rent the unit. The form will disclose the results of any lead tests conducted on the unit's water supply. The form will also disclose any known information on lead service lines on the property, whether or not the line has been replaced, and any civil fines previously imposed on the owner for violations of this disclosure requirement.

Additionally, Washington D.C. will provide financial assistance for homeowners to receive full replacements of partially-abated lead service lines. Furthermore, all property owners who want to have their lead service lines replaced can do so with greater assistance; property owners will only have to pay for the portion of replacement on private property while the district will pay for the portion on public property.

The law builds upon action previously taken by D.C. officials to remediate lead service lines in the district. Lead service lines are a dangerous source of lead exposure. The pipes, or lines, that bring drinking water to residents can often erode over time. As they age, the lead material in them can leach into the water supply. Often times, homeowners are unaware as to whether or not their pipes contain lead. This means that lead exposure can persist undiagnosed in residents until it's too late.

Other states have begun to enact stricter rules regarding lead service lines. After the lead poisoning crisis in Flint and Washington D.C.'s own ongoing lead exposure issue, the dangers of aging lead pipes became a concerning topic for civilians and lawmakers alike.

Washington D.C. estimates there are 48,000 lead service lines on private property. That means 46 percent of their service lines could eventually be a source of lead poisoning.

The new law in conjunction with previous action such as its online, interactive map of lead service lines in the district and its prioritization of full service line replacements will help reduce lead exposure. The new law is a significant step toward ensuring the safety of all residents.

To learn more about the law, visit Washington D.C.'s website. To learn more about lead exposure and how to get involved in this work field, visit Zack Academy.

Residential Renovations Impacted by Updates to Oregon Asbestos Rules

asbestos exposure warning sign
The state of Oregon debuted four new rules concerning
the disposal and handling of asbestos.

Last fall, the state of Oregon updated its asbestos rules. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) implemented four new rules concerning the handling and disposal of asbestos-containing material. These new rules include new disposal requirements, laboratory testing, and the introduction of an asbestos survey that must be conducted for all residential buildings built before 2004.

The biggest change is the residential renovation asbestos survey. Now, all Oregon homes built before 2004 must have an asbestos survey conducted with an accredited inspector prior to demolition and renovation activities. The only exception is for homeowners performing their own renovation; however, this does not include owner demolitions.

Previous rules not only exempted residential renovation projects from asbestos survey requirements, but allowed contractors to forgo notifying the state of demolitions for all buildings if contractors didn't believe asbestos was present.

The new pre-demolition and pre-renovation survey requirement serves as a notification for everyone who will be affected by asbestos abatement; however, there are more notification forms that may be required depending on the scope of the project.

After these asbestos survey reports are performed, they must be submitted to DEQ. As part of the new rules, these surveys must meet DEQ standard requirements and include all required information about the project.

The two new rules surrounding asbestos survey requirement will help protect homeowners, workers, neighbors, and disposal site workers from accidentally coming in contact with asbestos.

The third big update is a new rule for asbestos disposal. Now, non-friable asbestos must be packaged the same as friable asbestos for waste disposal. Friable asbestos refers to any asbestos-containing material that can easily crumble and release asbestos fibers. Non-friable asbestos can become friable if improperly handled, so creating one streamlined standard will better protect workers and residents from asbestos exposure.

Lastly, the state of Oregon now requires laboratories that analyze bulk asbestos samples to participate in a nationally recognized accreditation program. Effective January 1, 2021, this requirement will create a common level of accuracy and precision in analyses. DEQ plans to maintain a public list of accredited asbestos laboratories on its website.

To learn more about the new Oregon asbestos rules, visit their website. To learn more about asbestos certification and how to get involved in this field, visit Zack Academy.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Illinois Lowers Blood Lead Threshold for Children

childhood lead poisoning children's toys
In an effort to reduce childhood lead poisoning, Illinois
lowered its blood lead threshold for children while
increasing fines for lead paint violations.

This week, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) lowered its blood lead testing level for children. The new testing level, which is the minimum threshold for triggering public health outreach, has been lowered to 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (μg/dl). The new rule aims to reduce childhood lead poisoning in one of the most afflicted states in the nation.

Prior to the legislation, children had to present with a lead level of 10 μg/dl in order to trigger a public health intervention. New research, however, has indicated that no amount of lead can be considered safe. Like all heavy metals, lead poisoning is cumulative. This means small amounts of exposure over time can build up. The effects of lead poisoning are pronounced in children because their bodies are still developing. The longer a child goes without medical intervention, the more likely that their symptoms will be irreversible.

Now, Illinois' blood lead level threshold is in line with the latest recommendation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new lead law will help more children receive medical attention before it's too late.

"The new lower action level means more children will be identified as having lead poisoning, allowing parents, doctors, public health officials, and communities to take action earlier to reduce the child's future exposure to lead," Dr. Nirav D. Shah, IDPH director, said in a recent press release.

Furthermore, the new lead paint rule will increase the maximum fine for lead paint violations. That means that property owners who fail to perform lead remediation in homes where lead-poisoned children are identified will face hefty fines. The same goes for contractors and remodelers who work on properties containing lead paint without a lead-safe renovator certification.

Illinois has one of the highest rates of childhood lead poisoning in the United States. Part of this is due to its old housing stock as old lead-based paint is the primary source of exposure in these cases. Another factor is lead-contaminated water; Chicago housing, for example, was built with lead pipe plumbing up until 1986 and there are more than 400,000 lead service lines still in use in the city.

Illinois state law already requires that all children six years or younger be tested for lead. The new lead paint rules will continue to support national effort to stop childhood lead poisoning.

The new rules will become effective in a few weeks and will be available in the Illinois Register. To learn more about lead paint certification, visit Zack Academy

OSHA Authorizes Drone Technology for Inspections

OSHA drone technology
Last year, OSHA authorized its agents to use drones for
inspections on dangerous and remote job sites. The benefits
and drawbacks have been debated by industry experts.

Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum that authorized OSHA inspectors to use drone technology to collect evidence during investigations of certain workplaces.

According to the memo, OSHA inspectors are only allowed to use unmanned vehicle system technology, or drones for enforcement purposes in areas that inaccessible or pose a safety risk to inspection personnel. That means that only worksites such as collapsed buildings, chemical explosion sites, and other disaster areas would ever potentially see drone technology.

Furthermore, OSHA must have consent from the employer or supervisor of the jobsite before using drones for inspection. Everyone on site must be notified of the drone inspection prior to the launch.

From this perspective, drone technology is poised to revolutionize the construction industry. By reducing costs and preventing injuries, drones could streamline the inspection process for these remote work sites. Faster inspections mean faster enforcement so that unsafe work practices are curbed before employees are seriously hurt on the job. Considering that construction is one of the most dangerous industries in U.S., any safety improvements for workers should be considered.

"Anything that we can do to eliminate a hazard here an employee can be injured through the use of technology, that's great for me," Clark Peterson, vice president of environmental health and safety for New York-based construction group Skanska USA, said in a recent press release.

Still, some industry insiders are concerned about drone use in the workplace. Many take issue with the current OSHA inspection protocol, which allows for citations on violation "in plain sight". Some worry that aerial inspection could drastically change what is considered plain sight. In this case, legal experts advise employers to clearly define the scope of the investigation beforehand.

However, the memorandum states that OSHA is seeking a Blanket Public Certificate of Waiver of Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration. Once OSHA has a COA, drones can be implemented nationwide. It's unclear if OSHA will require employer permission if the COA is granted.

In this era of construction, tech on the job site is not going away. Drone inspections are just one of these new construction industry advances. The benefits and drawbacks are of equal importance when considering to opt in or out of drone inspection. As the technology expands, it's important for construction workers to stay in the know about these industry updates.

To learn more about the OSHA inspection drones, read the official memo. To learn more about the construction industry and how to get involved in this exciting field, visit Zack Academy.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Chicago Beats Better Buildings Challenge in Just Five Years

Recently, the city of Chicago announced it met its energy efficiency
goal five years ahead of schedule. The energy savings have
translated to more money and new jobs in the city.

Last week, the city of Chicago announced that it had met its Better Buildings Challenge goal five years ahead of schedule. Set back in 2012, Chicago committed to reducing its energy use by 20 percent over the next ten years. However, after just six years Chicago has reduced its energy use intensity by 22 percent.

Part of a Department of Energy (DOE) energy efficiency campaign, the Better Buildings Challenge asked cities across the United States to reduce energy use intensity. The challenge encouraged cities to use sustainable design practices to improve the energy performance of existing buildings.

When Chicago joined the Better Buildings Challenge, it launched Retrofit Chicago, a city-wide energy efficiency program. The program provides resources for commercial residential, and municipal buildings to implement energy efficient renovations. As a result, Chicago was able to provide building retrofits, smart HVAC systems, energy-saving LED lights, and more improvements to residents who could not otherwise afford them.

The Chicago Better Buildings Challenge has a made a big impact on the city. The reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission has helped improved the city's air quality. Additionally, the initiative has created more jobs for energy auditors, building performance analysts, and other contractors with energy efficiency experience. But most importantly for developers and residents alike, the energy efficiency campaign has reduced utility bills and operational costs for structures. Chicago has cumulatively saved almost $48 million in energy costs due to the challenge.

The Department of Energy isn't the first entity to recognize Chicago for its commitment to sustainable design. Previously, the city won awards in both 2017 and 2015 for green building and eco-friendly upgrades. The city was recognized by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for having 70% of its office spaces being LEED or ENERGY STAR certified.

To learn more about Chicago's Better Buildings Challenge, visit the Better Buildings website. To learn more about energy efficiency and how to get involved in this dynamic career path, visit Zack Academy.