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Poloncarz: not shutting down playgrounds due to lead paint

Thomas O'Neil-White

Shut it down. That’s the message coming from Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw in a letter sent to County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Wednesday regarding county parks playground equipment suspected of having lead paint.

The letter itself was adjacent to a report, also released Wednesday, alleging bad bookkeeping practices by the county executive’s office.

Mychajliw, citing an independent test done on peeling paint from a county playground, is asking for the shut down because it is hazardous to young children. Speaking at Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, Poloncarz said using playground equipment from 90 years ago will not cause lead poisoning in children.

“Our Health Department came with out with specialized equipment, not the cheap stuff you can buy at the store, but specialized equipment to check a number of the old pieces that exist in the parks,” he said. “A lot of them are safe. Some may still have some lead on it, and we can encapsulate that by painting over it.”

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz inspects a new bathroom at Shelter 8 at Chestnut Ridge Park.

Poloncarz also said that some of the equipment may be removed altogether. He calls it a double-edged sword because of the fact that he wants the parks to be as safe as possible, yet the older playground equipment is quite popular.

“I leave it up to individuals to understand these slides, these teeter-totters, have been in the parks for years,” he said. “Our most popular piece of equipment, in all of our parks, is what used to be called the Cinderella’s Carriage in Akron Falls Park.”

Poloncarz said a greater health concern in the parks is people not following park rules. He cited an incident where a young woman jumped from Akron Falls and was paralyzed and a man who tried to climb a ravine at Chestnut Ridge hit his head and died.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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