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Real estate company named in lawsuit over lead paint violations hit with EPA fines

One of New Hampshire’s largest real estate companies has been fined more than $90,000 to settle lead paint violations at a Manchester property while trial date has been set in a class-action lawsuit related to those violations.

Brady Sullivan Properties of Manchester has agreed to pay a penalty of $90,461 for violating federal lead paint laws at its Loft at Mill West property. The company is already facing a lawsuit related to those violations filed by more than 40 tenants from 33 units at the Manchester complex, according to their attorney Francis G. Murphy of Shaheen & Gordon, P.A.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the settlement this week with Brady Sullivan, which had failed to disclose the existence of chipping lead paint to tenants and exposed the tenants before they moved in to lead dust from a construction site below the apartments.

The fine, Murphy said, substantiates the tenants’ claims and demonstrates that lead contamination represents a serious health risk as lead is a well-known toxic substance.

In their lawsuit, the tenants maintain Brady Sullivan made ineffective lead decontamination efforts in the building and hazardous levels of lead remained in the units. Many plaintiffs have young children living with them, said Murphy. Other plaintiffs are or have been pregnant, and lead contamination is dangerous to young children and pregnant women.

“No one would ever willingly pay thousands of dollars per month to live in a contaminated site,” said Murphy, a partner at the Manchester law office.

During the pre-rental process, Brady Sullivan provided the tenants a document titled “Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards,” according to the lawsuit. The disclosure revealed lead-based paint in the apartments but stated, “[a]ppropriate measures have been taken …make the common areas and the apartment unit 'lead safe' in accordance with local, state and federal regulations, including those of the EPA.” The Disclosure also stated Brady Sullivan “ha[d] no reports or records pertaining to lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards in the housing.”

However, Brady Sullivan became aware of lead paint contamination in the building one year before renting out the apartments when commercial storage space on the first floor of the building tested positive for lead paint, according to the lawsuit. During later renovation work of that space ordered by Brady Sullivan, the tenants noticed cloudlike dust in the common areas. Testing of this dust revealed lead levels thousands of times higher than the EPA-established lead limit.

The lawsuit is schedule for a jury trial on November 27 in Hillsborough County Superior Court North in Manchester.