Janesville75°

Lead tests draw few

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
October 25, 2007
— No one showed up for free lead testing offered by the Rock County Health Department for neighbors concerned about fallout from the Jeffris theater demolition.

Residents are worried but found the afternoon meeting difficult to attend, said Martha Pearson, director of the transitional living program for women and children in the nearby Jeffris Flats.


Ingesting lead can damage a person’s health if he or she is exposed to high levels for extended periods of time, said Sheryl Inman, general sanitation program manager for the county. Children are especially susceptible because they are smaller.


Appearing at the meeting were Pearson, two ECHO staff and a man who owns a nearby building. Jim Grafft, the developer demolishing the Jeffris Theater, 319 W. Milwaukee St., and his attorney also were present.


Grafft declined to comment during the meeting, calling it a “witch hunt.”


The city recently condemned the Jeffris Theater, saying it had become unstable.


It also evacuated three families from apartments in the Flats, and they now are living in a motel. At least one of those families lacked transportation to attend the meeting, Pearson said. Two other families were ready to move into two more apartments but were unable to do so as well.


Kelly Lee, development specialist for the city, said the apartments were vacated because officials fear the theater wall could fall on their fire escapes.


That leaves only one safe way in and out, she said.


The Jeffris Flats playground was fenced off for fear bricks could fall from the theater and harm the children.


The apartments also were tested for lead, and one area on a door threshold was found to have dust with an unacceptably high level of lead, said Sheryl Inman, general sanitation program manager for the county.


Inman said no one can be certain where the dust came from, however.


“All I can say is our building was completely gutted,” Pearson said. “Nothing in there (the Flats) remains from that era. All the woodwork was replaced.”


Lee said that a paint chip she believes was taken from a brick in the Jeffris Theater also tested positive for lead.


Some of the residents of the Flats already have been tested for lead, and results were within acceptable levels.


Pearson said the women remain concerned about air quality and worry about lead and asbestos.


“I think the biggest concern is just the stress of not knowing whether their air is OK, whether they’re safe or not safe,” Pearson said. “That’s just a stressful way to live your life.”


Inman detailed lead poisoning prevention methods that include cleaning up lead dust.


The department has offered to retest the apartments and the children when demolition is complete, she said.


The least amount of exposure is the best, and Inman advised residents to keep their windows closed and surfaces washed.


“If everyone follows the guidelines, we’re not going to wind up with a disaster,” she said.



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