DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham County Judge Carl Fox ordered the owners of a home on Holloway Street to begin lead abatement work by the middle of next month, about a year after pressure washing caused lead-based paint chips to come off the home and land in the yards of their neighbors.
Holly Dwan and Tiffany Graves first contacted CBS North Carolina about the situation last fall when they struggled to get local, state and federal regulators to compel the homeowners to clean up the paint chips and remove the lead hazard from their homes.
“I feel like we’ve been in crisis mode, constantly researching, trying to educate ourselves,” said Dwan.
Carl Richardson and Roderick Barbee own the home at 525 Holloway Street.
Last month the city hired a contractor to remove the paint chips from the property after months of inaction by the homeowners.
However, the city’s contract did not explicitly address lead paint removal. The city also does not have the authority to compel the homeowners to hire a certified contractor to do lead abatement work at their neighbors’ homes.
The state has the power to cite the contractor that did the initial water blasting, but it can’t mandate cleanup unless a child living in the home tests positive for elevated lead levels. No one is living in the home at 525 Holloway Street, which is a rental property.
However, Dwan and Graves each have kids living in their respective homes.
Dwan took her children to the doctor for blood work. Her youngest child, Lucy, tested positive for lead.
Even though there’s no safe level for lead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the level of concern to be 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Lucy tested at 2.1 micrograms per deciliter.
“We use this as a teaching opportunity,” said Dwan. “When we don’t accept responsibility it can cause harm to other people.”
In addition to ordering the abatement work to begin, Judge Fox fined Barbee and Richardson $100 per day beginning May 29.
They can’t conduct any “land-disturbing activity” on the property. They also cannot sell the house without permission of the court.
If the lead abatement work doesn’t begin by July 15, the fine increases to $150 per day.
Following Monday’s court hearing, the attorney for Roderick and Barbee said, “It’s unfortunate, but we hope that we can come to a positive resolution.”
Dwan and Graves say they’ve been frustrated that government regulators haven’t been able to do more to resolve the situation.
“If you can put a stop to unsafe work before it gets too far along, you will save yourself a lot of heartache,” said Dwan.