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Millions of dollars coming to Delaware for lead pipe remediation, HUD grants available

Wilmington Housing Authority Executive Director Ray Fitzgerald
Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
Wilmington Housing Authority Executive Director Ray Fitzgerald

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announces $90 million in grants are available to reduce residential health hazards.

Public and Indian Housing Authorities can apply for some of the money through HUD’s Housing-Related Hazards and Lead-Based Paint Capital Fund Program.

That program provides grants to reduce and remove hazards from low-income homes including lead-based paint, carbon monoxide, mold, radon, fire safety, and asbestos.

The Wilmington Housing Authority received a $5 million grant from the federal fund last year, and Executive Director Ray Fitzgerald says they need two or three times that much to remediate the agency’s entire housing stock.

“There are a lot of old houses in the city that are going to need this work," Fitzgerald says. "We’ll be responsible for managing the lead in the units that we have, all of our lead is encapsulated, so that means that it’s safe. But what we are trying to do is get it out of the units altogether so there is no lead in the unit at all.”

HUD estimates addressing any of these issues could cost an average of $15,000 per unit, notably higher than the average $3,500 per unit received through Capital Fund Formula Grants.

Sen. Tom Carper says part of that is because of how difficult lead is to remove.

“Lead in our drinking water, lead in paint, has been a problem for almost as long as I’ve been alive," Carper says. "We’ve been working on this as a nation forever. Working with healthcare folks, medical folks, working on it with environmental people, all levels of government, and it’s really hard to get the lead out. The key is not giving up, and the key is working on it together.”

Delaware’s Congressional delegation also announced a separate investment in lead pipe remediation – more than $28 million from the EPA through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Mid-Atlantic Regional HUD Administrator Matthew Heckles says many sectors of federal government are putting money towards the same goal.

“If we just remediated lead in public housing it wouldn’t work, if we just did single-family homes owned by individuals it wouldn’t work," Heckles says. "It has to be all across all of these different partners.”

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.