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585 units to get lead-paint tests

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As part of a national settlement involving 130,000 apartments, 585 units in Salt Lake City will be tested for lead-based paint contamination and cleaned up if necessary.

The Utah sites are the Foothill Place Apartments, 2260 Foothill Drive, 450 units, and Park Capitol Apartments, 215 N. Main, 135 units.

"We've already had lead testing that we privately obtained," said a man answering the telephone at the Foothill Place complex office, who did not wish to be identified by name. He said the private testing turned up no problems.

Nobody was available to answer questions at the Park Capitol complex, but a member of the legal staff for the managers, Apartment Investment and Management Co. (AIMCO), Denver, verified that Park Capitol is the other Utah complex.

According to a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., interviewed by telephone, the units will be tested over the next two years.

The concern about paint was prompted by the fact that the units were built before 1978, when restrictions were imposed on use of lead-based paint.

At low levels, lead poisoning can cause children's IQ to drop and can cause impaired hearing, reduced attention spans and other behavior problems, according to a government announcement. At high levels, it can damage a child's kidneys and central nervous system, with possibly fatal results.

The Environmental Protection Agency and HUD announced the "broadest lead disclosure settlement ever" in the matter. The 130,000-plus apartments are located in 47 states and Washington, D.C.

"This agreement goes a long way in making certain parents can raise their children in safe and healthy homes," said Mel Martinez, secretary of Housing and Urban Development. "Not only are more than 130,000 apartments going to be certified lead safe, but today's settlement demonstrates the value of management companies and landlords working closely with HUD to prevent our kids from being poisoned."

EPA administrator Christie Whitman said protecting children from the dangers of lead-based paint is of paramount concern. Eliminating lead-based paint hazards in older housing is essential, she said.

"AIMCO is to be commended for its voluntary disclosure and other efforts to make its housing lead-safe," Whitman added in a federal news release. "We urge other landlords to take their cue from this responsible action."

Under the settlement, AIMCO agreed to test and clean up lead-based paint hazards in the apartments and pay a $129,580 penalty. The news release says the penalty and number of units are the largest ever in a lead-disclosure settlement.

According to the statement, AIMCO voluntarily disclosed violations of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act. That enabled the company to "significantly reduce its penalty," says the release.

E-MAIL: bau@desnews.com