Big Lead Paint Settlement Reached in Mass.

November 26, 2004

State and federal officials plan to announce a lead paint settlement in that will require a prominent Boston real estate company to test for and remove lead paint from more than 7,000 apartments in Massachusetts.

Officials say the consent decree between the government and WinnResidential Limited Partnership is one of the largest to target lead paint violations in the country.

The agreement was reached after regulators alleged the company failed to notify tenants that the apartments might contain lead. It’s not clear how many, if any, of the apartments actually contain lead.

The consent decree covers more than 3,000 apartments outside of Massachusetts as well.

WinnResidential will also pay a $105,000 dollars fine in addition to testing for and removing any lead paint.

Most of the apartments covered under the consent agreement are in Cambridge, Somerville, Worcester, Springfield and the Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston.

The settlement should send a message to other landlords about the importance of complying with the lead paint law, according to Miniard Culpepper, acting regional director for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“This agreement will not only create thousands of healthier homes but will give families the peace of mind to raise their kids without fear of lead poisoning,” Culpepper told The Boston Globe.

Will Woodruff, a spokesman for the company, said WinnResidential is working to fix any problems.

“We are committed to lead paint safety,” he said. “We are disappointed that administrative violations were found and already have taken all necessary action to correct them. We are gratified that this investigation found no violations related to lead paint testing and abatement.”

Company chairman Arthur Winn began developing affordable housing in Salem in 1971. Since then, his company and affiliates have grown to control $2 billion in assets, including 235 housing developments nationwide.

Federal officials say the action against WinnResidential was the largest since the government brought a lead paint case in 2003 against a Hartford firm, Apartment Investment and Management Co., which resulted in a $129,580 fine and an order to test and clean up more than 130,000 apartments.

Nationwide, nearly 450,000 children under age 6 show dangerously high levels of lead, much of it caused by ingesting dust from flaking or chipping paint tainted with lead.

Lead paint can cause lower IQ’s, learning disabilities and physical impairments and is considered a bigger problem in lower-income neighborhoods where housing tends to be older and more poorly maintained.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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