Philadelphia plans to tighten regulations on demolitions after a year of heightened fears of lead poisoning in construction-heavy residential neighborhoods.
At Thursday’s City Council session two bills were introduced, both drafted by the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I).
Mark Squilla introduced a bill that would set new dust control requirements at demolition sites, requiring fabric fencing, at least five feet high, to surround relevant properties. Debris couldn’t be stored outside the fencing, unless they are in a sealed dumpster or dump truck.
If materials are being dropped from 20 or more feet, an enclosed chute would be required. Where mechanical demolitions are underway and winds rise to faster than 20 miles an hour, operations would have to cease. (L&I notes that most demolition in the city is conducted by hand.)
After demolition is completed, and if a new structure isn’t immediately being built, the bill would require the laying of a layer of “granular material” atop the site four inches deep.
Many of the neighborhoods where fears have been most acute are in Squilla’s district, which not-coincidentally contains some of the city’s hottest residential areas. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s widely read “Toxic City” series focused attention on Fishtown in particular.
“After hearing residents’ concerns prior to the [Inquirer] report, and after the information we received from the report, we want to add regulations to the demolition process,” said Squilla. “We want to make sure residents in these areas are protected from lead dust or any other containments in the air.”