Thursday, April 19, 2018

Oregon Passes Lead Legislation for Demolitions

oregon sb 871 lead poisoning prevention

Last year, Oregon tightened its laws on lead exposure and lead safety by passing Senate Bill 871. The bill was twofold - it required the Oregon Housing Authority (OHA) to develop a list of Best Practices for projects containing lead, and resulted in a new rule that requires demolition contractors to have proper lead certification.

The new Best Practices can be adopted by Oregon cities through ordinance when they create or revise their demolition program. The bill does not force cities to opt in, but it grants them the authority to establish such safeguards. Oregon lawmakers are confident cities will follow in suit.

"They just want the statutory authority to be able to do that. There's a lot of concern," Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow said in a recent press release.

The concern is valid as lead paint plagues older housing stock common in Oregon. When lead paint is disturbed through renovation or demolition, the dust can get into the air or leech into groundwater. Exposure to lead can cause bone, blood and hormonal disorders, as well as cognitive and physical impairments. Acute exposure can be fatal, but small exposures over a period of time can be just as dangerous. Chronic lead poisoning often affects children and can persist long before anyone notices the irreparable symptoms. Reducing childhood lead poisoning has been a task of importance at both state and federal levels.

"This is about protecting people's health," Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow said in a recent press release.

The bill also closed a glaring loophole where Oregon renovation crews were required to be lead certified, but demolition crews were not. Oregon law requires lead certification for any work disturbing lead paint or properties built before 1978; however, the legal language did not specify total demolitions. Technically, as it was argued by developers, a total demolition is not a renovation or remodel. However, residents argue that both demolitions and renovations can expose people to toxic lead dust.

One such example involved two Southeast Portland neighbors and a local developer. The case exposed this exact loophole.

"None of those agencies actually regulate home demolitions. Every agency I talked to I just got passed to another one. Every person I talked to was sympathetic. Every person thought this was a problem," Kelly Campbell, one of the neighbors involved in the Southeast Portland demolition, said in a recent press release.

Now, municipalities can withhold demolition permits until developers are lead certified.

A tremendous effort to reduce lead poisoning, some Oregon cities are already using SB 871 to create their own ordinances. Portland is one such early adopter. Their new demolition rules apply to all buildings occupied by one to four families and are at least 200 square feet. Demolition crews must be lead certified and take extra precautions to make sure their site controls the toxic dust.

"I see a real model for the rest of the state. If the city of Portland can do this right, I can certainly see other cities taking this up and taking this on because their residents are equally concerned," Oregon State Senator Michael Dembrow said in a recent press release.

To learn more about Senate Bill 871, visit the Oregon Legislative website. To learn more about lead poisoning and how you can help prevent it in your city, visit Zack Academy's lead homepage. Zack Academy offers a variety of lead certifications both in-person and online.

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