Lead Safe Roanoke clears more than 400 Roanoke homes of lead paint

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - In Roanoke, hundreds of the city's homes and offices were built with an almost unnoticeable hazard. A small staff with a big budget is on a mission to clean up the city.

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"It's hard enough to raise a healthy child, and then to have a sick child is devastating," said Marla Robertson. "Especially when it's 100 percent preventable."

Days like today are Marla Robertson's favorite kind of days.

"It's a great sense of pride and I absolutely love what I do," she said.

Robertson's crew is made up of four people using tools, vacuums and hazmat suits to scrape away at a problem that was planted in a southeast home more than 30 years ago.

"Home ownership is overwhelming, but you realize you have a huge hazard in your home that is completely overwhelming," said local mom Beth Deel.

Deel bought this house for her brother-in-law and his young family over the summer.

"It was the closest we could get to right next door, " she laughed. Location and size were perfect. But the paint job was less than.

"We were fairly confident just looking at the peeling paint that we had a lead situation," she said.

That's where Robertson's team stepped in. Lead Safe Roanoke came and tested Deel's house for free.

"I asked her if there was lead, and she goes, 'Oh yeah,'" Deel said of her interaction with the environmental scientist.

In fact, it was one of the worst houses in the city.

Lead Safe is working on the roof, the back porch and replacing 41 windows throughout the house - all with grant money from Housing and Urban Development. It's a task that could cost the average homeowner from $8,000 to $20,000 to do on their own.

That makes Deel's home one of the more than 400 homes they've helped clean since 2003, easing the burdens of homeowners and landlords like Deel. Right now, they have 30 homes on their waiting list, all qualifying because they have a child age five or under in the home.

"Huge, huge weight yeah," she said, nodding.

And it makes every bit of Robertson's busy work days worth it.

"Now knowing that these families can move on and feel safe in their home and have a little bit more light in their life," she said, "that one worry taken away from that family is a huge burden lifted."

To learn more about Lead Safe Roanoke, click here.

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