Toledo’s Lead Law: Questions over fairness and cost of compliance

. August 15, 2017.

Despite the pushback and a slow start with compliance,  the city’s lead ordinance won’t be evicted from the Toledo’s Municipal Code any time soon.

Passed by Toledo City Council last August, the ordinance— which requires lead-safe certificates for buildings built before 1978 with one to four rental units— has drawn the ire of some landlords and at least one area state representative. The law was designed as a safeguard against lead exposure for children, not as a penalty for landlords.

Merrin lashes out

The most noteworthy pushback on the ordinance came from the Ohio House of Representatives this spring, when Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) added an amendment to the state operating budget that would have nullified the Toledo’s lead ordinance. The amendment was designed to maintain the status quo, mandating the state— not the local health department—  to oversee lead issues in Toledo and elsewhere across the state.  Ohio’s House of Representatives passed the amendment, while the Ohio Senate later rejected it.


In May, Merrin posted his position online stating “Let’s start with a simple fact: Toledo’s law is unconstitutional. It targets a small minority of property owners and treats them unequally under the law.”

Merrin, who declined to comment for this article, wrote in his online article that larger apartment complexes were intentionally left out of the ordinance. “At least one Toledo official owns an apartment complex, which was purposefully provided an exemption,” it stated.

City officials say the smaller, older units were the focus of the ordinance quite simply because that’s where the lead is.

State funding support

The city has received support on lead matters.

First in late June, when the state senate moved to provide up to $150,000 annually in matching funds over the next two years to Toledo in its effort to combat the lead problem, specifically in the “historic south neighborhoods of Toledo.”

On Monday July 17, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, City of Toledo Director of Neighborhoods Bonita Bonds and federal Housing and Urban Development officials announced the availability of $2.9 million in federal grants for lead hazard-related residential repairs. $2.5 million is for lead-related improvements and $400,000 is set aside for other environmental hazards, such as mold. Pamela E. Ashby, Director of HUD’s Cleveland Field Office explained that HUD awards Lead- Based Paint Hazard Control (LBPHC) and Healthy Homes grants to local governments in a continuous effort to keep families and their children safe from lead-based paint and other home health and safety hazards.

People can call the Department of Neighborhoods now at 419-245-1400 to inquire about the grant resources.

Toledo was allocated $2.2 million from HUD in 2012, which was administered through the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, and 111 homes were remediated.

“Toledo is a leader in the state in creating a new law to prevent lead poisoning in the City, and is working toward lead safe homes for all of our children.  This is very welcome news that we have now received support from HUD to help protect Toledo families from lead-based paint hazards,” said Mayor Hicks-Hudson.

Deadlines extended

The lead ordinance, passed in September 2016, required all affected buildings to be in compliance within a year’s time. Approximately 50,000 buildings in Toledo are affected by this ordinance. In April— with about 100 properties in compliance— that deadline was extended with deadlines over the next few years, based on the greatest risks of lead exposure. The first deadline is now June 30, 2018, with deadlines for properties deemed less dangerous in 2019 and 2020. There are now 85 inspectors registered to do the ordinance required lead-safety inspections.

Despite the slow start with lead ordinance compliance, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department lead safety supervisor, Josh Niese, see the compliance process picking up momentum as the months roll by.  “We’ve set up the infrastructure, providing education, built up a workforce of people that could do the inspections. Our organization is committed to the success of the program.”

As of July 28, 2017, David Welch, Director of Environmental Health & Community Services at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, reports that 234 properties are registered as having passed the lead inspection.

Once a property as passed the inspection, which costs $300-$400 on average, it will receive either a one, three of six-year certificate. One-year certificates are afforded to LMHA Section-8 houses, which fall into a one-year category by law. Three-year certificates are afforded to homes that have previously failed the lead inspection. Six-year certificates are given to properties that immediately pass. Currently, 57 properties have a one-year, three have a three-year, and 132 have a six-year certificate.

“The City of Toledo’s lead safe ordinance is to make a property lead-safe, not lead-free, explains Welch, who thinks the recent change to the amendment, affording landlords more time, is a good thing. “The change to the amendment is positive. Now, you have three different time frames available, so it’s a good way to stretch this out and to try to get all of the property owners within a year is just a lot of work to be done. It not only helps us but provides landlords with multiple properties more time to get everything done.”

How do you get the lead out?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted laws in 2010 designed to prevent contamination from lead-based paints. With simple testing, you can determine the presence of lead-based paint in a home and there are several options for removing or protecting the paint. To do it safely, it is crucial to work with a contractor who is certified in lead paint removal and can determine the best abatement strategy.

Encapsulation, or encasement, involves brushing or rolling on a specially-made coating to create a watertight bond to seal in the paint. Is the simplest and most affordable method, but least effective. Opening and closing doors and windows may eventually wear off the coating. Encapsulation products start at about $50 per gallon. In 1,200- to 2,000-sq. ft. home, it will cost $800 to $1,400, not including labor.

Removal approaches vary but often include using a wire brush or wet hand scraping with liquid paint removers. Contractors often wet sand surfaces with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuum. Sometimes, paint can be stripped off with a low-temperature heat gun. Using open flame burning, torching, machine sanding without a HEPA attachment, abrasive blasting or power washing are all forbidden. On average, the EPA estimates that professional lead-based paint removal costs about  $8 to $15 per square foot or about $9,600 to $30,000 for a 1,200- to 2,000-sq. ft. house. The average removal project costs about $10,000.

Toledo-Lucas County Health Department
635 N. Erie St., 419-213-4100.