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Commissioner: Checking for lead in Manchester apartments isn’t city Welfare Department’s job

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 22. 2013 10:09PM

MANCHESTER — City Welfare Commissioner Paul Martineau said it’s not his job to check whether apartments he pays for are lead free, but his opponent said it’s something the city Welfare Department should consider doing.

When the city Welfare Department places beneficiaries in apartments, case workers make sure the apartment meets the city’s minimum standards, Martineau said. He acknowledged the apartments do not have to be cleared of lead.“People find apartments. We assist them in getting there. I don’t know if there’s lead or not,” Martineau said. “That’s why we have a Building Department — they check and give people Certificates of Compliance.”

“It’s not up to me to go out and check. That’s not my mission,” he said.

His opponent, former deputy Welfare Commissioner Diane Guimond, said she was surprised to hear that the Building Department does not test apartments for lead as part of the Certificate of Compliance process.

She said she’d like to have a conversation with the Building and Health departments about the issue. She said young children are susceptible to lead poisoning.

“I would not want to pay rent and put a child at risk,” Guimond said, “that goes against everything that’s part of the welfare system.”

The city’s Building Department inspects apartments once every three years for a number of health and safety issues. While peeling paint can result in an infraction, inspectors do not test for the presence of lead in the apartment.

Martineau disputed an Oct. 18 column in the New Hampshire Union Leader. In the piece, Hawa Enow, a resident of 312 Cedar St., said the Welfare Department placed her family in an apartment where three young children were poisoned with lead.

Martineau said he has a case file on the family, and the Welfare Department did not place them in the apartment. He initially said another agency did the placement, but he would not name the agency. He then said he only suspected that another agency placed the family in the apartment.

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