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(LOS ANGELES) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced settlements with two Los Angeles-area apartment owners and managers that requires them to remove lead-based paint hazards from their buildings, and fund programs to assess and prevent lead poisoning in children.
"Tens of thousands of California children have blood lead levels above the threshold set by experts to determine when treatment is needed," said Lockyer. "That number has dropped substantially in recent years, and we have made great progress in reducing lead pollution. But we must do more. There is no safe level of lead exposure, and there is no higher priority than protecting the health and safety of our children. That's why this settlement is so important."
The settlements resolve lawsuits filed by Lockyer in Los Angeles County Superior Court against SK Management Company (SK), and Westside Rehab Corporation and its affiliates (Westside). The court must approve the settlements before they become final.
The California settlements cover about 1,843 apartment units owned by Westside and its affiliates, and some 1,380 managed by SK. The affected units all are in Los Angeles-area apartment buildings constructed before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned.
The state's lawsuits allege the two companies violated a Los Angeles County ordinance that prohibits lead-based paint hazards on the exterior or interior of any building inhabited or frequented by children. Lead poisoning of children can cause brain damage, kidney damage, impaired growth, hearing loss and other health problems. The complaints also allege SK and Westside failed to comply with the federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. The federal law requires landlords to inform renters of lead-based paint dangers in their units.
In separate complaints, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allege SK and Westside violated the 1992 federal statute. Federal prosecutors today also announced settlements of those lawsuits, which were filed in federal court in Los Angeles.
The federal settlement with Westside covers 1,446 units outside California, as well as the Los Angeles-area units.
The California settlements require SK and Westside to remove lead-based paint, and abate lead-based paint hazards, in the affected units. The removal and abatement must be performed in accordance with consent decrees filed by the federal government in its cases.
Within 60 days of the court's approval of the consent decree, SK must submit to HUD an abatement plan for specific units. The abatement plan must be completed within six months of HUD's approval. However, if children under six reside in a unit, cleanup must be finished within 60 days of HUD's approval. Additionally, SK must abate lead-based paint hazards before pregnant women or children under six move into a unit.
Westside must remove lead-based paint from one-third of its units annually for three years. The firm must give priority to units which house children under six. Within 14 months of court approval of the consent decree, Westside must identify lead-based paint hazards in the affected units. It must take steps to eliminate hazards within 30 days after identifying them.
SK officials say they have complied with the cleanup provisions of the consent decree, while Westside executives say they have finished most of the required abatement.
The California settlements require each defendant to fund a "Child Health Improvement Project (CHIP)." The CHIP provision in the SK settlement requires the firm to pay $25,000 to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to fund such services as blood lead screenings, clinical consultations, medical surveillance, provision of risk information and educational outreach. Westside must pay $35,000 to the Environmental Research Center at Martin Luther King Jr./Charles R. Drew Medical Center to fund similar activities, as well as hazard abatement.
The federal settlements also require SK and Westside to comply with the 1992 federal disclosure law. Specifically, within 10 days of court approval of the consent decree, the firms must provide tenants: all known information about lead-based paint hazards or lead-based paint; information about documents related to lead-based paint hazards or lead-based paint; an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet; and a lead warning statement.
Additionally, the defendants will pay a combined $40,000 in civil penalties to the state and federal government.
Lead-based paint was banned in 1978. But older housing, such as the SK and Westside apartments, still have lead-based interior and experior paint. An October 2002 study found that 38 million housing units nationwide had lead-based paint. Of those, 2.42 million were multi-family units, such as apartments.