Some students living in 2109 F. St. said this week that GW’s Office of Risk Management failed to fully explain the presence of potentially harmful lead-based paint used in their building.
Residents received an e-mail Oct. 14 from their Residential Advisory Council asking for students to report chipping paint in their rooms and sign a release of liability form if they did not do so on move-in day.
“As some of you may know, our building was at one time painted with lead-based paint. Over the years, the lead-based paint has been covered with new coats of non-lead-based paint,” the RAC e-mail reads. “However, in some areas of the building, the paint is beginning to chip, to the point where the wood is exposed in some cases. This poses a health concern and we have been instructed by Facilities to obtain the specific locations where this is occurring.”
According to documents on the Office of Risk Management Web site, federal law requires GW to inform students before they receive their room keys that “housing built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. Lead from paint, paint chips, and dust can pose health hazards if not managed properly.”
On its Web site, the Office of Risk Management has profiles of the 23 residence halls that have been exposed to lead-based paint. With 33 pages, 2019 F St.’s profile is by far the longest. The West End’s profile comes in second with nine pages, while most of the other residence halls have only a page or two. The profiles list every area in each room where tests for lead-based paint have been conducted.
The University initiated its lead-based paint policy in July of 2000, although the Residential Lead-Based Paint Reduction Act was passed by Congress in 1992. The GW policy was last amended in June of 2006, and the next review will be in June of 2010.
The e-mail sent to all student residents of 2109 F St. says the Office of Facilities is working with RAC to have students submit work orders for areas of their rooms where paint is beginning to chip and wood is exposed.
Brendan Curran, who moved into 2109 F St. before the designated move-in day, said he never signed a lead-based paint release of liability form. Despite his unease with the situation, Curran said he was happy RAC had informed students of the risks.
“I believe that the council is doing everything possible, which to its extent is simply raising the lead awareness… [but] students simply should not be living in a lead-painted dormitory, although I wouldn’t be opposed to a lead-paint housing fare reduction,” Curran said.
Some students said they did sign the release but did not feel they were properly informed about the nature of the problem.
“The most troubling part about this whole issue is that I do remember signing a form on move-in day, but I assumed it was just acknowledging that I was picking up the key,” junior Lucas Divine said.
While confirming the existence of other lead-based paint incidences in campus housing, Juan Ibanez, the associate vice president for Facilities, said 2109 F. St’s lead-based paint issue is normal.
“There is nothing out of the ordinary with respect to lead-based paint and 2109 F St.,” he said in reference to the e-mails students received. “Our actions were a routine follow-up to 12 of the 78 residents in 2109 F who had not completed the disclosure form.”
Requests for comment from the Office of Risk Management went unanswered.
Ibanez said all residence halls that “may contain lead-based paint,” including Schenley Hall, The West End, Building JJ, 2109 F St. and Scholars’ Village Townhouses, require students to sign a disclosure form before they receive the keys to their rooms. The form, however, is not a waiver for the University, just an acknowledgement form stating students have been informed about the possible health risks.
Statements from the University did not assure all students that lead-based paint was not hazardous to their health. “Everyone seems to be very quick to reassure me that lead paint is not an issue… [but] why, if it is not an issue, am I forced to sign a waiver to get into my room?” said sophomore Pat Miller.