City of Hattiesburg offers new LeadSAFE program to help abate hazards posed by lead house paint

Although the use of lead-based house paint was banned in 1978 because of safety concerns, some older homes can still pose problems for occupants – in particular children, who are more susceptible to suffer maladies such a brain or nervous system damage from lead poisoning.

To help foster education regarding that issue, the City of Hattiesburg’s Community Development Division recently launched LeadSAFE Hattiesburg, a new initiative designed to protect families from lead-based paint hazards through safety training and lead abatement. The program is made possible with the help of a $1.6 million lead-hazard reduction grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was received by city officials at the end of last year.

“We received a grant that allowed us to address what we believe is a critically important challenge to safe housing in Hattiesburg,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “Putting these resources into our community, where we are not only testing for lead paint but also abatement, helps both the people who are living in the house, as well as the homeowner who may one day want to sell the house.”

LeadSAFE will go into effect in September and October, when city officials partner with the Mississippi State University Environmental Program to offer three hazard safety training courses on lead inspection, lead assessment and lead abatement. Initiative consists of the following three courses:

  • September 26-28: lead inspector
  • September 28-29: lead assessor
  • October 18-19: lead abatement worker

The courses are free, but spots are limited. Participants must have a high school diploma or GED, reside within the city limits of Hattiesburg not exceed income limits for Housing and Urban Development.

Residents who live within the city limits and are income-eligible also can apply for financial assistance for lead abatement, with the following questions used as a guideline to determine eligibility:

  • Do you own or rent your home? (Either may qualify).
  • Is your home within the city limits?
  • Is there a child six years of age or younger and/or a pregnant woman occupying the home at least six hours per week?
  • Was the home built before 1978?
  • Are property taxes current or past due? Certain past due amounts may qualify.
  • Does the household meet HUD income requirements?

“So there’s two components: there’s the abatement program to address the actual needs of houses, but there’s also the safety training, where people can learn the skill of how to assess and abate lead paint,” Barker said. “So not only does the grant allow us to help actual homes, but it also allows people to learn a trade if they want to start doing this for a living.”

Registration for the safety training course, along with more information, can be found by calling (601) 554-1006 or by emailing leadsafe@hattiesburgms.com.

“These grant programs operate out of a necessity to abate and reduce the occurrence of LBP hazards that exist locally for housing units that were built before this time period,” said Demetria Farve, LeadSAFE Hattiesburg program manager. “To do that, we’re hosting a training program that will help grow the lead abatement workforce and will soon open applications for lead abatement in local homes for residents who meet qualify.”

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