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Lead amounts at Manchester's Mill West exceed federal safety standards

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 19. 2015 9:04PM
The first floor of the Lofts at Mill West is under construction. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Samples of dust collected last week from many locations at the Mill West residential complex exceed federal safety standards for lead contamination, state health officials said Tuesday.

High lead levels were found in all three of the stairwells that residents use to reach the apartments on the third and fourth floor of the main building, said Beverly Drouin, manager of the state Healthy Home and Lead Poisoning Prevention plan.

High levels were also found in one windowsill, she said.

The samples were collected during a five-day period last week, and validate tests that a tenant commissioned after growing concerned about dust that had accumulated in his apartment, hallways and stairwells.

Drouin said state officials have seen high levels of lead before, but usually in two- and three-unit tenement buildings, never in such a large residential redevelopment project.

Usually, a large mill building renovation takes place in an empty building, when hazardous material can be removed with little danger of exposure, Drouin said.

But at Mill West this month, property managers Brady Sullivan Properties brought in contractors early to sandblast the first floor of the residential side of the complex. Ninety-eight apartments are leased out on the third and fourth floor, a Brady Sullivan official said.

“Typically, we do not see a building occupied with renovations going on,” Drouin said.

State officials said Brady Sullivan has agreed to undertake a risk assessment of the residential portion of the main building.

The risk assessment will be performed by independent contractors and follow federal guidelines, Drouin said. It will determine the extent of the lead contamination, how it should be cleaned, and if the property is safe to live in, state health officials said.

Lead, which was used in paint until the 1970s, has been linked to learning and behavioral problems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Small children are particularly susceptible to lead exposure.

Drouin said few children live in Mill West. Michael Dumond, the director of the Bureau of Public Health Protection, said a preganant tenant has already moved out. Asked if the property was safe, Dumond said “the risk assessment will determine that.”

He said anyone who is concerned can have a doctor check their blood for lead.

Drouin said the stairwell tests involved the northwest, northeast and center stairs, and none differed much from the others. The EPA sets a safety level of 40 micrograms per square foot, and samples ranged from 41 to 1,300, she said.

She stressed that Brady-Sullivan has cleaned the stairwells since the samples were taken.

Marc Pinard, the general counsel for Brady Sullivan, said lead was also detected in a common area between the residential and commercial portions of Mill West. The residential portion is to the north of the complex; the commercial portion is to the south.

Pinard said sandblasting is the likely cause of the lead contamination.

“I’m told it’s related to the sandblasting,” Pinard said. “All the precautions that were taken that I thought were reliable; I am told that is not the case.”The city Health Department halted the sandblasting last week because the contractor lacked proper permits. Drouin said sandblasting will not resume until the risk assessment takes place.

Brady Sullivan plans to eventually lease out 270 apartments at the Lofts at Mill West. The upscale apartments include granite countertops, steel appliances, exposed brick and original flooring. They range from $1,200 to $2,550 a month, according to the apartment building’s website.

Pinard said a smaller residential building to the west, called The Annex, was not tested. Drouin said the state has taken samples from offices it leases on the southern portion of the main Mill West building, but those results are not available.

State officials shared results with reporter over the telephone. But they said printed material was in draft form and was not available on Tuesday.

Environment Health General News Manchester

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