DECO Resources has partnered with the Allegheny County Conservation District, Grow Pittsburgh and the Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization to continue keeping Pittsburgh residents safe from dangerous lead.
Founded in 2013, the Allentown-based environmental consulting company helps facilitate eco-conscious choices through construction, engineering and working with local businesses. While DECO addresses everything from stormwater management to bike infrastructure, the group has recently focused on educating the public about potential exposure to lead in and outside the home.
“Lead can be a big problem in both water and soil, but we can’t do anything about it unless we know where it is,” says DECO president and environmental director Anthony Stewart. “Residents need to be active in getting their water tested. Additionally, they should have their soil tested if they plan to use it as an active space, especially for gardening.”
Last year, DECO joined with Grow Pittsburgh to evaluate potential lead levels in vacant lots that residents were interested in using for gardening. The Allegheny County Conservation District and other environmental professionals also got involved to better understand the problem in Pittsburgh and how to address it.
“The City has been a part of this process, as they have strictly enforced standards for usage for property with various levels of contamination,” says Stewart. “Part of our mission is to provide more accurate data on lead levels.”
The organizations will join forces again during a free upcoming soil screening event at the Sharpsburg Community Library. Concerned citizens from Pittsburgh and all over Allegheny County can bring soil samples from their yards or gardens to be tested for lead and other minerals, and receive tips on how to lower their risk of lead exposure.
Lead contamination has become a top concern for city residents in the wake of the Flint water crisis, a major public health disaster that has poisoned thousands in Michigan. Last July, tests ordered by the Department of Environmental Protection showed that lead levels in Pittsburgh’s drinking water exceeded federal standards. As a result, Mayor Bill Peduto recently announced the formation of a task force that, among other things, will study the handling of lead levels by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA).
While fears surrounding rising lead levels in water are justified, DECO also wants to raise awareness about soil-based lead and how it got there. For decades, the mineral was common in paint, gasoline, pipes, batteries and other items, and although it’s been removed from many household items, people are still at risk of coming in contact with it.
“Contamination in soil often comes from leaded paint that flakes or washes off of buildings,” says Stewart. “It tends to stay in soil close to the edge of buildings. Even still, it can be difficult to accurately look for in soil, especially as old buildings are demolished.”
If lead is present in soil, Stewart says there are a number of simple and inexpensive ways to deal with it. To learn more, visit the lead screening event on Saturday, September 10 at the Sharpsburg Community Library, 1212 Main St., Pittsburgh, PA 15215 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Instructions on how to collect a soil sample are available at the Grow Pittsburgh website.