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Local Groups Band Together to Get the Lead Out

Sullivan County, NH - Awareness of the health hazards caused by lead--especially lead-based paint--has grown in recent years.  But the lack of properly trained and certified contractors and workers remains an issue.  A partnership between Habitat for Humanity, the Sugar River Valley Regional Tech Center (SRVRTC) in Claremont, Sullivan County, Southwestern Community Services, and the Greater Sullivan County Public Health Network is hoping to change that.  Last month a 4-day training class was held at the Sullivan County complex in Unity that trained 10 students in lead hazard abatement.  Funding for the class was provided by the Department of Health and Human Services and supported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.  Receiving training were two instructors from the Tech Center, two people from Habitat for Humanity, local contractor Jon Nelson, of Concept Carpentry and five inmates from the Dept. of Corrections who participate in a work release program.

According to Don Derrick, Habitat for Humanity’s Claremont program manager, building capacity for lead abatement contractors and workers is key.  "We know lead paint is a problem in our communities because 84% of homes in this area were built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned.  People are becoming increasingly interested in having lead paint removed safely but the lack of qualified contractors and workers is a problem."

Continuing to educate and raise awareness of the hazards associated with lead paint is another goal of the partnership.  Alex Herzog, Director of the Claremont SRVRTC, pointed out the importance of reaching students in his programs.  "We sent two instructors from The Tech so they can incorporate the knowledge they gained into the classroom.  Although we won't train students on lead hazard abatement, we can definitely talk about it so they understand what to look for and why it must be handled by trained professionals."  Michael Bennett, the Building Trades Instructor who attended, is eager to apply this information in his courses.  "It's a serious problem but there are safe ways to remove lead hazards and protect people--especially children because they are most vulnerable to lead paint exposures."  Bennett continued, "My students will gain valuable insight that will help them in their own careers--and maybe inspire them to pursue a career opportunity related to lead paint abatement."

A final goal of the partnership is to connect inmates with job opportunities.  Dave Berry, Superintendent of Sullivan County Dept. of Corrections, is excited about the potential this program has for offenders participating in the TRAILS program.  "Every time we connect an inmate with a career path that allows them to make a living wage, it benefits that offender as well as our community.  We are putting people back to work and providing trained lead workers for our community at the same time."  Berry also noted how the timing of this initiative coincided with April which is the National Association of Counties "County Government Month."  "This year's theme is "connecting the unconnected" and it fits perfectly with what we are trying to do in terms of workforce development for our offender population to set them up for success upon release."

For more information on this program, please contact Don Derrick at:
don.derrick@uppervalleyhabitat.org.


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Press Release contact:
Sullivan County NH – County Manager, Derek Ferland
14 Main Street, Newport, NH, 03773
Tel. 603.863-2560, Monday through Friday 8 AM – 4 PM
Or Email:  manager@sullivancountynh.gov