BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – James Adams has owned an apartment building and two adjacent lots, for about 25 years, near some old industrial plants on the East Side of Buffalo that have long since been shuttered, and demolished.
Adams’ mother and his daughter’s family live in the 4-unit apartment house on Spring Street. Last year, an inspector from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency asked Adams for permission to take soil samples in his yard.
The retired Ford worker gave his okay for tests, then he got some bad news, “A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail saying it was very contaminated.”
Adams’ yard was contaminated with lead, in some places 50 times more than acceptable levels—an unsettling development for the Buffalo grandfather, because his 6 month old grandson lives in the house, and lead’s most harmful effects are on children.
“That kind of scared me, having a 6-month-old grandchild here,” Adams said, “so I don’t know if I need to tell them to move or what, you know?”
EPA officials know of two former lead smelting companies that once operated nearby—the Lumen Bearing Company, on Lathrop Street, and the Reliance Lead, Solder, and Babbitt Company on Genesee Street.
If the lead in Adams’ yard had come from either of those two sites, the EPA could have cleaned up Adams’ property, but EPA spokesman Mike Basile said an analysis of the lead found at Adams Spring St. property could not be linked to those industrial sites.
Basile said both of Adams’ lots tested high for lead, but when the lead was analyzed the “fingerprints” were different, “In both cases, the elevated levels of lead, on properties near both the former lead smelters, did not match forensically.”
If the lead didn’t come from those smelting plants, nearby, where did it come from? Basile said the lead could have drifted there from other industrial plants, over many years, or it could have come from old lead paint in some of the houses nearby.
“You have to appreciate the fact that the majority of these homes are older homes, and they used lead base paint, or it could have come from something as simple as, over the years, we used leaded gasoline.” Lead was an essential additive in gasoline, until the government banned its use in the 1970’s.