Erie Co. Parks crews undergo training to deal with lead paint on playground equipment

Erie County

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Work is getting underway to deal with 66 pieces of equipment in Erie County parks that have tested positive for lead-based paint.

Four parks crew members went through training at Chestnut Ridge Park Friday morning to learn how to safely remediate the affected equipment.

“The meat of it is how to handle it in a safe manner so you’re protecting yourself as the worker and the people that will be here around the park in the future,” said Tom Muscarella, a senior public health sanitarian with the Erie County Department of Health.

Testing of 200 pieces of equipment around Erie County parks revealed 66 of them had lead-based paint on them.

“Anytime there’s lead-based paint in a deteriorated state that’s accessible to people, especially children, it can be a hazard,” Muscarella said.

The Erie County Health Commissioner told county lawmakers who returned from their August recess to address the lead issue that there have been no cases of elevated blood lead levels found from contact with the parks equipment. All eight confirmed cases of lead exposure in children in Erie County so far this year have been from peeling and chipping lead paint in their homes, she said.

Still, over the next few weeks, parks crews will be removing most of the equipment that tested positive for lead paint.

Park users had mixed feelings about that.

“It seems like a safety issue, but it’s also a piece of nostalgia,” said Orchard Park resident Brad Salmon as he was walking in Chestnut Ridge Park Friday morning. “I’d love to see them sandblast it or something like that and refurbish it.”

Some of the more iconic pieces, including Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage in Akron, will remain in the parks. They will be ‘encapsulated’, or covered in a paint or sealant to make them lead-safe, and will be monitored frequently in the future.

The Parks Commissioner told News 4 crews are prioritizing work on the most frequently used equipment first. Equipment that’s essentially ‘in the woods’ will be lower on the to-do list.

After Friday morning’s training at Chestnut Ridge, the parks crew will be able to handle all of the work.

“They’re going to set up the area so it contains the lead. They’re going to wear their personal protection,” Muscarella said.

Muscarella and his team set up a demonstration site at a slide in Chestnut Ridge to show the crews how to safely encapsulate the equipment that is remaining in place. The crews also received classroom style instruction earlier in the day to ensure they knew the best practices for lead remediation.

The Erie County Health Department offers the same kind of training to homeowners, landlords, and contractors several times a month, because the greatest risk for lead exposure is in homes built before 1978.

Learn more about the county’s Leadsafe Programs here.

You can also learn more about the specific programs for veterans and military members, as well as programs specifically for homeowners on the county’s website.

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