MANCHESTER — A company that leases storage units on the West Side has stopped renting to new customers over fears of possible lead contamination and wants its landlord, Brady Sullivan Properties, to pay for any cleanups.
Extra Space Storage has posted signs at the property it leases at Mill West, the sprawling mill complex that includes apartments that Brady Sullivan has started to rent out. The signs read that high levels of lead were recently detected in dust, which it attributed to the construction activities of Brady Sullivan.
The contamination pits a national company with locations in 37 states against one of the largest developers in Manchester. Neither has taken responsibility for the contamination, and each point to the other as being responsible.
“We are currently demanding cleanup and remediation by the landlord who is disclaiming responsibility (other than common areas),” wrote Extra Space spokesman Clint Halverson in an email last week.
Halverson noted on Tuesday that Brady Sullivan will meet with Extra Space in a walk-through, but he doesn’t know what will happen.
Meanwhile, Brady Sullivan’s lawyer, Marc Pinard, said the company followed all EPA rules when it rehabilitated the mill, but he acknowledged the rules are lax when it comes to work in commercial property, such as storage units.
Pinard said Extra Space had leased the Mill West space before Brady Sullivan purchased the building.
“They took possession of it with lead contamination in there, and they have never chosen to abate the lead in that space,” Pinard said.
Brady Sullivan hopes to eventually get control of the Extra Space area and covert it to apartments, but the storage-unit company has three more years on its lease, he said.
Halverson said Extra Space encourages its customers to have their belongings cleaned at company expense when they vacate their storage units. And Extra Space will not rent any of its 524 units until the issue is resolved.
It tested for lead and found varying levels throughout its space. More tests are scheduled for this week, Halverson said.
“Even though we are a commercial property, we tested residential levels knowing that most items would be taken into residential settings once removed from storage. Levels varied, with many units below acceptable residential levels,” Halverson wrote last week.
The contamination — which was brought to the attention of Extra Space and the New Hampshire Union Leader by a storage space customer — has exposed a loophole in federal laws dealing with lead hazards.
The EPA enforces tough regulations to prevent contamination of small children who live in homes built before 1978, when the EPA banned the sale of lead paint. But the regulations do not apply to commercial buildings, and the Extra Space Storage area is a commercial activity, even though many units are leased to store household materials.
The contamination that brought the problem to light was found on belongings stored beneath a window that had been installed in the building as part of the renovation work. Although Extra Space uses metal doors and sides in its storage units, the roof is mere chicken wire.
Pinard stressed that apartments, which are located on the third and fourth floors above Extra Space, are safe from lead contamination, and the company followed all proper regulations when it renovated the area for apartments.
He said Brady Sullivan met with the EPA over the contamination, and the agency was satisfied that the work Brady Sullivan did at Mill West followed EPA regulations. EPA spokesman Dave Deegan said the agency did an office inspection last month but has not finalized its findings.