NH House OKs tougher lead remediation standards

Bill that sets up loans program for landlords now heads to Senate


The NH House easily passed a bill Wednesday that could result in landlords doing a lot more lead remediation in their buildings, but it would make that remediation a lot easier and provide some financing.

“It’s a careful balance of our children and the interests of those who provide housing for them,” said Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, who chairs the House Finance Committee.

Senate Bill 247 would requires universal testing for children and lower the threshold for the state to investigate from 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood down to 7.56 micrograms per deciliter next year and eventually to 5 micrograms. These investigations often lead to expensive remediations.

Also under the bill, landlords would only be required to clean up units with young children and pregnant mothers, though they would have to take care of common areas that are contaminated. Also, they would be notified their tenants’ children have some lead in their blood (from 3 micrograms to 5 micrograms so they could try to remediate in their own way to prevent higher blood levels and a state-ordered remediation.

The bill had originally also offered $6 million of grants to subsidize landlords, but an amendment passed by the House changed those grants to state-guaranteed loans. Landlords were not happy about that, since banks have said the guarantees were unlikely to induce them to finance such projects.

But only a few representatives spoke against the measure, warning that it could raise rents and cause landlords to walk away from their properties. They also emphasized that a long-term trend on lead exposures has gone down, showing that current law was working.

Still, there was an uptick in 2016, said Rep. Frank Byron, R-Litchfield, and New Hampshire still has a lot of old housing stock. He also argued that the bill did not undermine affordable housing in a measurable way.

The House voted, 266-87, for the amended bill, which now much go back to the Senate, which must agree to the changes. But the bill has the support of both party leaders, and the governor has indicated his support.

Other business

Meanwhile, the House, which canceled Thursday’s session because of the snowstorm, put off until next week a number of bills reshaping the state’s energy policy as well as a paid family leave insurance measure. But it did pass a number of bills affecting New Hampshire businesses, all of which need to go to the Senate as well.

The House:

 • Approved House Bill 485, which would require the state Department of Environmental Services to update drinking water standards every five years and allow the department to test airborne chemicals that could end up in groundwater. The governor said he would sign the bill if it gets to his desk.

 • Endorsed HB 267, which would repeal the NH Rail Transit Authority and establish a NH Transportation Council.

 • Passed HB 314, which would set the structure and guidelines for testing of driverless cars.

 • Approved HB 169, which would increase the table stakes in charitable games of chance from $4 to $10. It also voted for HB 263, which would allow the lessee of a facility (usually the casino operator) to apply for a license, rather than the facility owner.

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