The Douglas County Health Department is planning to purchase 1,100 vacuum cleaners this year. In a lead cleanup program used only in Omaha, a total of 4,000 vacuums could be bought by taxpayers over the next four years.
The vacuums would be given to those who live in homes where the E-P-A cleaned up lead contamination in yards. County health officials are convinced lead particles and paint chips exist inside those homes.
The vacuums would be used to suck up the hazard. A team of county health workers would train those receiving the free vacuums.
The E-P-A will pay for the purchase but Douglas County Commissioner Kyle Hutchings said its still tax money he doesn’t want sucked down the drain. Hutching said, “With the crisis we have economically from federal government down to the local government we’re going to spend almost three quarters of a million dollars over the next several years to provide vacuum cleaners to folks who may or may not use them.”
Hutchings also expressed concern about how residents will dispose of lead particles they vacuum up. He also asks what would keep someone who received the free vacuum from pawning it off.
Douglas County Health Director Adi Pour believes in the unique program the E-P-A is funding only in Omaha. Pour said, “We will have an evaluation and follow-up after individuals have received the vacuums.” This is the program the E-P-A and their scientists proposed for this community.” Pour is convinced vacuuming will prevent children from contracting lead poisoning over time.
John Hanson who had lead removed from his yard is taking a wait and see attitude but said, “If it makes people healthier I think it’s a good idea.”
A Six On Your Side check of a half dozen metro vacuum cleaner stores found no one having the specific model in stock.
The county hopes to purchase the initial 1,100 Sealed Hepa upright Sanitaire vacuums for about $150 a piece.
Jim Stevens of South Omaha Vacuum said he would not submit a bid. Stevens said, “Because I would be spending more money to get it that I could sell it for.” Stevens did say the vacuums called for in the county specs would do the job.
Vacuum stores and suppliers have about 10 more days to submit bids. The Douglas County health department plans to purchase 1,100 vacuums by November. Commissioner Hutchings said he has too many questions about the program and will vote to deny the vacuum purchase.