Peoria County has gotten a $3 million grant to deal with lead abatement.

Peoria County Board member Pat Hidden is afraid people still don’t understand the dangers of lead.


"People think it’s over," she whispers from the back of the county’s class on lead abatement at the Itoo Hall on Wednesday. She slides the textbook across the table. "Read this, if you want to scare the crap out of yourself."


Peoria County is part of a local coalition which got a three-year $3 million federal grant to fight this area’s substantial lead problem, and it’s just getting under way with this class. Beginning Tuesday, 120 people started training to be lead workers and lead supervisors. Next week, classes will be held to train lead inspectors and lead risk assessors. Peoria County is paying the freight, which isn’t cheap.


"To do everything is right around $1,000 a person," says Mike Glasscock of Precision Builders, who completed the training and has been working in the field for a decade. As a contractor, his goal is to have trained people who can do the work properly. "If it doesn’t clear the state, we don’t get paid."


He, too, thinks people underestimate the problem. But Peoria has the highest lead levels in Illinois, which has the highest levels of any state in the country. Hidden’s copy of "Lead Based Paint Abatement Training" proves her point about how much trouble that can mean. From anemia to miscarriage to organ damage, the book cites effects that are serious and sometimes permanent.


Since an estimated 81 percent of local homes built before 1978 have lead in them, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided the grant to underwrite the new "Lead-Safe Peoria Project." The money will be used to handle lead in houses, as well as training and public education. The city of Peoria and the county also contributed money, and will partner with the Peoria City/County Health Department, Peoria Citizens for Economic Opportunities, Early Head Start/Head Start, Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service and Common Place.


"This is a huge success for Peoria to be getting this funding," said Nicholas Peneff of Public Health and Safety Inc. He was busy with the class itself Wednesday, but commented about his training plans the Friday before the class started. "We’re going to teach people not only to do safe removal on other people’s houses, but we’re going to raise the awareness for them to take back into their own neighborhoods, and their own communities, and their own churches."


He had described the effects as "killing two birds with one stone:" improving local housing and providing more skills for local workers.


"You’re going to have more jobs and more awareness in this area of public health," he said.


Training both weeks will juggle class work with hands-on training at two local houses. The Itoo Hall provides breakfast, lunch and snacks.


"We have teams right now that are out in the field," said County Board executive secretary Patricia Sims. She said some of the local group may be eligible to take the state exam on July 18.


Terry Bibo can be reached at (309) 686-3189 or