Lead poisoning leads to crippling mental and physical health effects. Lead-based paint in older homes becomes a toxic dust storm when whole neighborhoods are demolished for new growth. Yet, nowhere in the United States were there any construction protocols minimizing health risks during building demolition. That is, until 2004 when the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Johns Hopkins University took East Baltimore, Maryland, resident concerns to heart and created a whole new rulebook. (Anne E. Casey website)
|Rowhouse demo on Fort Ave at the moment when things went wrong|
A Casey funded report in 2011 gained national attention by establishing the Baltimore Protocol. The protocol includes
- community notification through documented signs,
- training of demolition supervisors,
- deconstruction of specific high lead items such as windows, doors, and stair railings prior to demolition,
- ample spraying during demolition and debris removal,
- careful street and sidewalk cleaning to remove residual dust, topsoil removal
- replacement of the yards of demolition lots,
- providing neighbors with HEPA vacuums and independent testing of the area after the demolition and cleaning is done.
The city of Baltimore introduced a plan to revitalize East Baltimore and spurred new safety standards that may change the future of demolitions across the country. Before East Baltimore’s redevelopment, little research existed on the effect demolitions had on a neighborhood’s ambient air quality. A 2003 study analyzed lead dust and accumulation from sites near EBRI’s redevelopment site. Results showed that, following demolition, lead dust levels in the environment increased by as much as 40 times, and there was a 6-fold increase during debris removal.
The EBDI demolition protocol proved to be so effective and associated costs so minimal that in 2007 the city of Baltimore revised its building code so that safety measures from the EBDI protocol are now a citywide standard. The state of Maryland is also considering adopting new legislative standards that would require similar safety measures be used throughout the state. (HUD user online)Tests using the protocol showed that lead contamination was much lower ( a 33% increase over the baseline levels) than in cases where the protocol was not used (150 -400% increase over the baseline). At the time the City, Maryland Assembly and even HUD had indicated a desire to adopt these standards and making them mandatory.
|Demolition of entire blocks, a trademark of project CORE|
It is fairly astounding, then, to hear the HCD Commissioner in July 2017 at a CORE progress event respond to a question about the safety of the City demolition program. Michael Braverman stated that the City is "currently studying" the demolition protocol of the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) and intends to implement it "when the review is done".
Why weren't the Baltimore Standards of 2011 used in those past six years if they were supposedly part of the code as HUD reported? Why is MSA studying the matter anew? Why did an emergency demolition earlier this year still create not only a large plume of dust wafting over Fort Street in South Baltimore but was also done so incompetently that it destroyed a second building that had been slated to be be rehabilitated? Sometimes Baltimore is ahead and then slips back again.
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
An effort of getting a comment from Baltimore Housing was unsuccessful to date.