GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The City of Grand Rapids was awarded millions of dollars from the federal government Wednesday to help reduce lead poisoning in children.
The city says the $2.9 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant for lead abatement and healthy homes will go toward a continued effort to rid the city of lead and help families. The city says roughly a million dollars in additional committed funds will be contributed to the effort.
The grant comes only a few months after it was announced that, for the first time this century, the number of Grand Rapids children poisoned by lead increased last year.
Kaycee Blakeley, a mother of three, never thought she would have to worry about the safety of her Grand Rapids home. Then she found out it had lead-based paint, a frequent cause of lead poisoning in children.
“We went to go paint the house a couple weeks ago not really thinking to test it and tested and we tested positive for lead,” she said. “It’s like, what do we do next.”
That’s where multiple organizations and millions of dollars in grants from HUD come into play.
“These allow us to spend, to actually identify and correct lead hazards in housing occupied by young children,” Douglas Stek, Grand Rapids’ contract administrator, explained.
In 2015, according to state figures, the highest number of children in Michigan with lead levels more than five micrograms per deciliter were in zip code 49507 in Grand Rapids. That’s the zip code where Blakeley lives.
“To know we’re in this structure filled with lead is pretty scary,” Blakeley said.
The federal grant money will go toward things like testing and repainting homes and replacing of windows — jobs the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan helps coordinate with families like the Blakeleys.
“These (lead removal) jobs are running $10,000, $11,000 and we’ve got a new baby, we’ve got a lot to adjust to, and we found out the child’s being exposed to lead, we never anticipated when we bought our home,” Healthy Homes Coalition Executive Director Paul Haan said he has heard from families. “This resource is absolutely critical.”
“To know that we can literally remove it and not have to worry have to worry about the lead and poisoning the kids anymore is huge,” Blakeley said.
The city estimates about 40,000 homes in Grand Rapids have lead. It says the funding will help about 150 homes with lead abatement.
Experts say will take a generation to strip away the poisonous lead-based paint in homes that was banned in 1978.