Deputy Mayor Michelle Thomas and acting Director of the Department of Safety and Permits Pura Bascos addressed a City Council committee to discuss the permitting process for the removal of lead paint, but they didn’t have all the answers.

Although a city ordinance was passed in 2001 detailing the proper procedure for the removal of lead paint from the exterior of houses, there seems to be a continuing issue with adherence to the rules. The matter was discussed at the council’s Housing and Human Needs Committee this morning.

Thomas told the council that the city has an inspector on duty on weekends to investigate possible illegal paint removal.

However, when City Council President Stacy Head asked how residents could get in touch with that inspector, neither Thomas nor Bascos could provide an answer.

Reached after the meeting Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said no public number is available for contacting that weekend inspector.

The lone speaker to address the council was Howard Mielke a professor of environmental toxicology at Tulane University and a longtime researcher and lecturer on the perils of lead poisoning.

Mielke came to the issue of lead poisoning after his own child was affected, and he’s become one of the nation’s leading academics, studying and documenting the causes and effects of lead poisoning.

Mielke helped draft the city ordinance, which severely limits the practice of power sanding lead-based paint.

Mielke said if a “property owner wants to power sand, they must measure the amount of lead in the paint and, if lead is present, they must obtain a permit to follow the established rules set by the state and the EPA.”

Thomas said the city hopes to smooth the process as part of a “one-stop shop” for permits.

Mielke said the public probably isn’t aware of the regulations because the public-awareness effort was launched just days before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and it understandably was overtaken by events.

Mielke has authored numerous papers and articles about related health issues including at least one article, which correlates lead contamination and societal violence as well as an “artist driven multi-disciplinary project “called The Fundred to “support a solution to lead contaminated soil” in New Orleans.