HUD puts Milwaukee lead abatement projects on hold

NOW: HUD puts Milwaukee lead abatement projects on hold

UPDATE: MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – The Federal Government is ordering the City of Milwaukee to halt lead abatement projects.

This afternoon CBS 58 obtained a copy of a letter from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development saying it is putting a "stop work" order on city's lead hazard reduction grant. That’s the money used by the city to remove sources of lead, like paint, from homes.

The letter was sent to the Milwaukee Health Department Monday after HUD made a visit to the department last week. It means all HUD-funded lead abatement programs must stop.

The letter says HUD found areas of concern, including “issues of lead hazard control work in which owners were completing work that may be unsafe and non-compliant.”

The letter comes after problems were uncovered within the city's childhood lead prevention program.

Mayor Tom Barrett and the health department say this move is not unexpected and they actually invited HUD to visit the program last week.

“They [HUD] had some concerns about the scope of the work that we’re doing,” Mayor Barrett said. “Our practice had been to focus on windows primarily; they want us to focus on a larger area. And I’m very comfortable with that, and I indicated to them I’m comfortable with what their suggestions are.”

The Health Department sent a letter to the common council about the HUD letter, saying staff is “…working aggressively to address many of the deficiencies identified, and will continue to work cooperatively with the HUD Program Director to insure work on HUD projects will resume as soon as possible.”

“It’s very serious,” said Ald. Michael Murphy. “In all my years I’ve never seen HUD issue an order like that. I think it’s appropriate though. Obviously they should make sure the protocol is done correctly and that they make the changes accordingly.”

The City of Milwaukee Health Department responded to the letter with the following statement:

“As part of the steps to address the issues found in the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Mayor Barrett and the City of Milwaukee Health Department invited HUD to review the findings of the Health Department’s own internal investigation.”

HUD’s analysis affirmed the findings related to our HUD-funded activities, and we have agreed that a temporary pause will provide us with welcome support in improving the program.

As we take action on the recommendations issued in our own report, we will work closely with HUD to implement processes that will allow us to better respond to and help families prevent lead poisoning in our community.”

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