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WASTE WATCH: Lead Poisoned Children Left in Limbo

COLUMBUS (Brooks Jarosz) -- The City of Columbus is spending $3 million to get rid of lead paint in homes of low income families, however ABC 6 Investigators found some families have been left in limbo for years.

Lead Safe Columbus says its supposed to be a priority to remove the poisonous paint from homes of children with high levels of lead in their blood. ABC 6 Investigators reviewed dozens of applications from homeowners and found a pattern of disorganization.

The Columbus Health Department tests for lead-poisoned children twice a month. Having a child poisoned by lead is more common than you may think.

If your home was built before the late 1970s, it may be coated in a health risk.

Bobbi Pederson is a foster parent who lives in an old house in East Columbus. Tests show its covered in lead paint and then the news came that she didnt want to hear -- one of her children tested positive for elevated blood lead levels.

Oh, I felt horrible, Bobbi Pederson said. I mean I wasnt sure where it happened, how it happened.

Kevin Stinson is a former case manager for the citys lead program. He says hundreds of applications came in but the system and process was in such disarray many homes, like ABC 6 Investigators found, just slipped through the cracks.

"They're supposed to go to the top of the list, but they were not," Kevin Stinson said.

City officials say Lead Safe Columbus applications go through assessments plus the bidding process before contractors use your tax dollars to replace windows, doors and cover the paint -- all sources of lead dust.

Nearly two years after applying, Pederson is still waiting for peace of mind. Shes spent that time with the windows shut, doing some of the paint removal herself.

"The fact that the application was never processed, the fact that I never got a straight answer from the program was frustrating, Pederson said. I reached the point where I wasn't going to give up because as a taxpayer I wanted to know too, where's this going."

Records show, Pedersons file had no activity, no changes or updates for nearly one year. She is not alone. ABC 6 Investigators found homes of children who also had high lead levels were overlooked for no reason.

In August, we visited 2904 Livingston Avenue where records show a lead poisoned child once lived. The application remained in the system for a year.

"Once again someone moved out because nothing was being done," Stinson said.

However, in October it was done and the city removed the lead, only after we requested the records for the property.

590 Carpenter was where another family with a lead poisoned child moved out before the work ever began.

"This house had no water pipes, had holes in the walls where people kicked in the walls to steal copper from the house," Stinson said. We were wasting the money.

We checked and the home hasnt had running water since July 2012. In November 2012, the city spent nearly $10,000 getting rid of the lead paint, but even today the home sits vacant.

The city claims the typical timeline for homes eligible for lead paint removal takes three to four months. We questioned why lead sickened children were not taking priority.

"Understand that the sick children every time, it is our policy, every time that they will take priority, City Housing Administrator Rita Parise said. That doesn't keep us from doing other units at the same time."

That rings hollow to Bobbi Pederson who became increasingly frustrated with no progress at her home.

"That was at the point that I wrote an email about my concern for the program and who was getting the money and where it's going to," Pederson said.

The email dated May 21, 2013 reads, I have attempted to contact you every two months for a year and a half only to get the same answer of Were working on it.

"We have better processes and procedures today than we did even back in May, Parise said. And we will continue to improve on issues such as this."

"Enough is enough it's been almost two years, Pederson said. If they don't want to accept me into the program I will accept that but I just want a yes or no."

The $3 million grant for Lead Safe Columbus runs out next year. The city is unsure whether or not it will apply for another grant to continue the program.
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