Bay Area counties win $305 million settlement in lead paint case

Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA), July 17, 2019
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As part of a settlement in a decades-old legal battle, several former manufacturers of lead paint will have to pay $305 million to a number of Bay Area cities and counties to clean up the toxic substance.
The money — paid by Sherwin-Williams Company, ConAgra Grocery Products Company and NL Industries — will go toward local lead paint cleanup programs.
The local governments had alleged the manufacturers promoted the use of lead paint in homes despite knowing it could cause lead poisoning in children.
According to a news release from Santa Clara County’s Office of the County Counsel announcing the settlement, lead paint-related hazards are the most significant environmental hazard for children in California and elsewhere. The substance can cause brain damage and learning disabilities.
In addition to Santa Clara County, Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Mateo, Solano and Ventura counties will receive money in the settlement. So will both the city and county of San Francisco, and the cities of Oakland and San Diego.
The settlement will aid the 10 cities and counties in bolstering local clean-up programs. Lead paint was banned in 1978 but remains in millions of homes across the state.
Last year, the companies sponsored a failed $2 billion statewide ballot measure that would have declared that lead paint is no longer a public nuisance and absolved them of cleanup costs, a move that prompted outrage from lawmakers in Sacramento.
“Today’s settlement holds former manufacturers of lead paint responsible for the harm they have caused to generations of California’s children,” Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams said in a statement. “This settlement is a victory for children and families throughout California. We have fought to hold these companies accountable for nearly twenty years, and will finally have needed funds to devote to protecting our children from lead poisoning.”
A superior court previously found the companies liable for about $700 million in cleanup costs but an appeals court later limited their liability to homes built before 1951.
The settlement will be divided among the cities and counties based on the number of homes with lead paint in each jurisdiction.
“This agreement ensures that significant resources will go to address the lead paint crisis,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement, “and that local governments have the flexibility to best protect children from this pervasive environmental hazard.”

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