Erie County Parks Playground. July 24, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Brendan Keany).jpg

County Begins Removing Lead-Tainted Playground Equipment

County quells concern over staff exposure to lead

August 12, 2019 - 5:26 pm

BUFFALO (WBEN - Brendan Keany) - After last week's meeting with the Erie County Legislature, the county is now implementing and acting on a plan to safely remove and contain lead-tainted playground equipment from various parks.

Troy Schinzel is the commissioner of parks for Erie County, and he says that staff members have been trained to remove equipment, and that will begin this week. He also touched on the priority areas for the time being.

"We're going to evaluate those and take places like Sprague Brook, which is camping, Akron Falls, which is where some of those items that tested positive are central locations near shelters, and  buildings and such."

Schinzel then went further in depth regarding the process of removal and preservation over the next couple of weeks.

"The two approaches that we're going to take is: one, the removal of pieces that we deem need to be removed from the parks, and the second step is a repair, renovation and painting of other pieces that we either want to save or have iconic stature within the parks. I'm hoping all of that is complete by September 1 - that's our the next two to three weeks is to really get in the field..."

However, not everyone is completely satisfied with the process of training staff in lead abatement. Rich Canazzi is the president of AFSCME Local 1095, and he brought up several concerns about some of the workers in his union.

"Any time you have some kind of substance that can be detrimental to people's health, safety, whatever, you want to make sure that it's being held properly and dealt with," said Canazzi. "So that was my number-one concern, to make sure that not only the public was going to be safe, but the people who were going to be doing the project, which is my members, that they're also safe as well."

Canazzi claims that he sent over an email on Friday afternoon to county representatives in the parks and other departments, and he received an email back from one of the department leaders, who then explained that he sent the paperwork and the email out to the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and other agencies that would govern this kind of situation. But Canazzi then added that the response was fairly vague in that it didn't specify when they would get back to him about particulars of the training. 

Canazzi says that "quite a few" of his members have reached out to him with concerns about the training, and


"I haven't gotten any information back; I was told that the project was going to be started (Monday), so I'm a little concerned," said Canazzi.

Listen to the full conversation with Canazzi below:

Schinzel responded to various safety concerns, saying that the likelihood of contracting lead poisoning from this type of work is miniscule.

"First of all, that's why it has taken this long is because we wanted to make sure that our staff was properly trained," said Schinzel. "We've already has them fit-tested for respirators; we've already had them medically tested, so we took the extra time to make sure our staff were properly trained. The commissioner of health, herself, and others (say) it's a low-level risk situation," he added. "Obviously, chronic, reoccurring exposure in an enclosed space would increase that level, but these pieces of equipment are in the outdoor setting, so we don't feel there's any high-level risk to staff at all with the proper training and health department's assistance."

Listen to the full conversation with Schinzel below:

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