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Claremont hosts signing of child lead testing bill

Union Leader Correspondent

February 08. 2018 9:12PM
Gov. Chris Sununu held the ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 247 in the Sugar River Ballroom at The Common Man restaurant in Claremont Thursday. The bill is aimed at preventing childhood lead poisoning. (Meghan Pierce)

Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett announces its time for the signing of SB247 by Gov.Governor Chris Sununu held the ceremonial signing of Senate Bill (SB) 247 in the Sugar River Ballroom at the Common Man Restaurant in Claremont Thursday. (Meghan Pierce)

CLAREMONT — Gov. Chris Sununu held the ceremonial signing of a bill aimed at preventing childhood lead poisoning in the Sugar River Ballroom at The Common Man restaurant Thursday as a nod to the key role city officials played in the bill.

Senate Bill 247 is aimed at preventing childhood lead poisoning from paint and water by requiring all Granite State children to get tested for lead poisoning as toddlers.

The bill is the result of years of work from stakeholders across New Hampshire. But Claremont city officials, especially Mayor Charlene Lovett, were singled out Thursday for their hand in pushing the issue to the statewide agenda.

“Without the town of Claremont really making this a priority and really pushing it statewide to not just their local representatives, but representatives statewide — bringing me in, sitting me down, we were able to talk a lot about it, look at the data. They really spearheaded the effort for the entire state. Without Claremont it doesn’t happen,” Sununu said after signing the bill.

Sununu added it wasn’t an easy bill to pass. “That’s the other part to this bill — there’s strength in it. It isn’t watered down. It’s something that the state can rely on for years to come. And we have Claremont to thank for that.”

In 2016 Claremont officials decided to make childhood lead poisoning a community-wide priority, which led to many actions on the issue in the city in 2017.

“We are one of the 21 highest risk communities in the state and that’s based on a number of factors including your housing stock. … The older the community, you are usually going to have more pre-1970 housing stock,” Lovett said Thursday after the signing.

The city and school district officials brought in community stakeholders — such as Valley Regional Hospital, Southwestern Community Services and Habitat for Humanity — and set goals.

“100 percent screening of 1 and 2-year-olds. And to make the public aware. Educate the public. Identify resources to try to remediate the issue and try to create policy,” Lovett said.

This led to a Claremont School District policy that asked parents to show forms that students coming into the school district starting in the fall of 2017 had been tested for lead poisoning.

“If they hadn’t then we highly recommended that they go get the testing,” Lovett said. “Because it wasn’t state law yet so we couldn’t say you have to do this to get into the school system. We didn’t have that authority.”

The city also held a forum to help residents learn about ways to remediate lead in their homes and the Claremont Department of Public Works “has been working very diligently to remove all lead components out of our water distribution system,” Lovett said.

The mayor said that work should be compelte by the end of the year.

“So there has been so many things we’ve been doing, but without the state policy to help support that effort we could only reach a certain level of success and not reach our goals,” she said.

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Thank you, Sununu