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Environmental group questions how city lead program spends funds

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – An environmental group in St. Louis is questioning how the city is spending money earmarked for lead abatement.

The city began a program called Lead Safe St. Louis three years ago; it screens children for lead poisoning and helps clean up contaminated homes.

But Don Fitz, with the Gateway Green Alliance, says the city's Health Department will not release block-by-block data on where the work is being done.

He says that information would show whether officials are spending grant money properly. "Fairgrounds Park in north city is a neighborhood which had a rate of 55% of childhood lead poisoning a few years ago," Fitz noted during a news conference Monday. "This is the neighborhood where the greatest amount of money should be spend.

"We have no idea how many homes have been abated in Fairgrounds Park."

The Lead Safe St. Louis website lists cleanup data by ward. The health department says it does not sort it by city block.

Last year, the program spent nearly $250,000 in the third ward, where Fairground Park is located.

But St. Louis health director Dr. William Kincaid says the city does not organize its data in the way the group wants. "That's not the way we normally keep our records," Kinkaid said Monday. "So we'd have to go back and do a complete analysis of the information and remap it, basically.