By Candia Dames
WASHINGTON – More than 5,800 Maryland apartments will be inspected for lead-based hazards and cleaned up, if necessary, under an agreement announced Wednesday by federal regulators and a Denver-based management company.
The settlement also affects 820 units in the District of Columbia and 8,520 Virginia apartment units.
The agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Apartment Investment and Management Co. will affect more than 130,000 AIMCO apartments in 42 states and the District.
AIMCO has agreed to pay the government a $129,580 penalty for failing to warn tenants that its properties may contain lead-based paint hazards. The penalty was significantly reduced because the company came forward voluntarily, according to EPA and HUD officials.
The agreement does not say how much the company may have to shell out for inspection and cleanup of its apartments. AIMCO officials referred questions on the settlement to their attorney, who could not be contacted Wednesday evening.
The agencies said residents living in AIMCO facilities will live in lead- safe units as a result of this landmark settlement — the broadest-ever disclosure. Cleanup is to be completed within two years, according to the settlement.
The 5,840 affected apartments in Maryland include 1,964 in Baltimore, 1,924 in Prince George’s County, 574 in Harford County, 502 in Howard County, 493 in Montgomery County and 383 in Baltimore County.
“Protecting our nation’s children from the dangers of lead-based paint is of paramount concern,” EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said in a release. “Eliminating lead-based hazards in older low-income housing is essential if childhood lead poisoning is to be eradicated.”
Whitman added that AIMCO “is to be commended for its voluntary disclosure and other efforts to make its housing lead-safe.” She urged other landlords to follow the company’s move to eliminate health risks in its units.
According to a recent HUD survey, about three-quarters of the nation’s housing stock build before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. The agency said nearly one million children have blood lead levels above safety limits.
Even at low levels, lead poisoning in children could cause IQ deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention spans, hyperactivity and other behavior problems. At higher levels, it could be more damaging to the health of people exposed, the release noted.
Affected apartment complexes in Baltimore include Bolton North, Chapel NDP, Clay Courts, Hopkins Village, Johnston Square, Kirkwood House, Lanvale Towers, Lester Morton Courts, Orchard Mews, Stafford Towers and Waters Towers.
In Prince George’s County, complexes were the Lighthouse at Twin Lakes I, II and III in Beltsville; Towers of Westchester Park in College Park; Burgundy Park in Forestville; Rosecroft Mews in Fort Washington; Parker House in Hyattsville; and Bradford Place in Suitland.
Other affected communities are Grand Pointe and Lazy Hollow in Columbia; Windsor Valley I, II and III in Edgewood; Colony at Kenilworth in Towson; Stratford Place in Gaithersburg; and Park Montgomery Apartments in Silver Spring.