By Jamie Wiggan
A one-year lead testing pilot program prompted by findings of concentrated lead contamination among children in McKees Rocks and other area municipalities was approved by council during its Aug. 11 remote meeting.
Funded and directed by Pittsburgh-based non-profits Allies for Children and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, the pilot will incorporate dust sampling into the borough’s existing rental inspection process.
In a presentation to borough officials, Laura Stephany, Allies for Children health policy director, said research conducted by the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) found elevated blood lead levels in 3.3% of the children tested in McKees Rocks, compared to a county-wide average of 1.8% .
“There is no safe level of lead,” Stephany said. “It’s a poison and it affects every area of the body.”
Stephany said the pilot will be used to pool data from different municipalities and encourage code officials to find common solutions. She said the borough’s 2018 rental property ordinance, requiring inspections of all rental units every three years, positions it ready to implement lead testing.
“You are really in a position to have access to a knowledge of rental housing which is one of the areas where children are [most affected by lead contamination],” she said.
Although commonly associated with drinking water supplies, lead contamination can also affect interior living spaces. Houses built prior to 1978 — when lead-based paint was removed from the market — are particularly susceptible.
Contamination is measured by sampling targeted sections of a building’s interior using dust wipes.
Stephany said funding is available for up to 180 rental units in McKees Rocks, but the borough needs only to test 30 to fulfill the terms of the pilot. Council unanimously approved the program.
“[The pilot will uncover] ways to remediate so our children can have a brighter future and are healthier and happier,” said Councilwoman Sarah Harvey, who presented the motion to council.
A change to the Borough’s animal ordinance allows residents to adopt feral cats that have been appropriately neutered and vaccinated.
According to the ordinance, feral cats that undergo neutering and vaccinations are instead to be called community cats.
A growing number of feral cats in the region has prompted efforts to control the population.
Speaking to the borough last October, a Humane Society volunteer told council the borough is home to between 300 and 400 feral cats in need of treatment.
In other borough news, Mayor Jack Muhr exercised his executive powers to direct the police and public works departments to enforce a one-way system for the section of Church Avenue between St. John’s Street and Catherine Baker Knoll Way.
Presenting to council, Church Avenue resident Steve Vann said motorists use the residential street as a shortcut to the lower Chartiers Avenue business district from the five-point intersection. He said cars frequently exceed 60 m.p.h. on the brick-paved street.
“It’s a dangerous situation now and it seems like the simplest solution would be to make it a one way,” Vann said.
Muhr said he was aware of the problem and moved to enforce the one-way system immediately. Council took steps to follow up on the Mayor’s temporary order with a long-term directive.