EPA, HUD team with City of Omaha to decontaminate lead-ridden homes

Around 160 homes still need to be sampled to determine their risk.
The City of Omaha has received an additional $34.3 million to help decontaminate lead-ridden homes in the metro.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 10:16 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Lead kills, and for 125 years, across 27 square miles, it made its way into Omaha’s water, air and ground, and into the bodies of our children.

“Tracking of our childhood blood lead levels really tells the story,” said Steve Vizny, program director of lead projects for the city planning department. “Before we started back in the late 90s, we had about 36% of the children testing high for lead in their blood in the focus area. That’s down to under 2% now.”

And while nearly 14,000 homes and properties have been cleaned up since 1998 -- today, 6 News learned that work will continue as the EPA announced a renewal of their federal-local partnership that grants $34.3 million. That includes $4.4 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development over the next seven years to continue cleanup in Omaha’s Superfund Site.

“What we’re really trying to bring to the fight are the resources to identify contractors that can help do the lead-based renovating, identifying the lead-based issues in the paint,” said Brian Handshy, regional public affairs officer for HUD Region 7. “We’re really proud to make sure these checks are getting into the hands of communities like Omaha.”

562 more properties are identified as dangerous, and some 160 homes still haven’t been sampled. Each of these costs about $20,000 to restore and reverse environmental damage but costs the property owners nothing.

“A lot of this contamination happened in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and it’s still there,” Zivny said. “A lot of our focus area is in South Omaha, so there could be a language barrier too, but we do have some bilingual staff that has had success with knocking on some of those doors.”

With the new funding, some sites tested earlier in the process can also be re-sampled using updated technology.

Check the Omaha Lead Registry to see if your property still needs to be sampled.