Nearly eight months after the city first revealed that more than 800 children in public housing had tested positive for high levels of lead poisoning, the New York Housing Authority has said it will carry out lead-based paint inspections of roughly 135,000 units starting in the spring.

In an announcement on Wednesday, NYCHA said it had hired seven contractors as part of an $88 million contract to undertake the work. Contractors will work from April 1st through September 30th, 2020, using a portable x-ray device to inspect 5,000 to 7,000 units each month. In addition to performing lead testing, contractors will also look for mold and leaks. There are currently 175,636 units in the NYCHA system.

Despite systemic lapses in oversight that has led to a public health crisis at its housing complexes, the agency asserted in its press release: “NYCHA will finally have 100 percent confidence of where lead exists in its developments.”

“We are aggressively tackling lead-based paint inspections at NYCHA so we can chart a definitive course to eradicate lead from our residents’ homes,” said NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Kathryn Garcia, in the statement. The initiative is part of LeadFreeNYC, part of a citywide effort to end childhood lead exposure.

Mayor Bill de Blasio originally announced that the city would undertake lead-based paint inspections back in July 2018, one month after federal prosecutors sued NYCHA for mismanagement that endangered the lives of public housing residents and workers. Just prior to the mayor’s announcement, the Daily News had reported that the city knew that more than 820 children under the age of six had tested positive for high levels of lead in their blood from 2012 through 2016. Prior to that, the city's health department had claimed the numbers were less than 20.

Adding to the confusion and further skepticism about the city's data, in August, city health officials released yet another tally, reporting that 1,160 children under the age of 18 had tested positive for elevated lead levels from 2012 to June 30, 2018, according to the New York Post.

NYCHA has been trying to work through a backlog of emergency repairs as part of a January settlement between the city and federal housing officials. On Monday, during an appearance on NY1, de Blasio said NYCHA has finished repairing almost 5,000 apartments found to have peeling, possibly lead-contaminated paint and that are home to families with small children. NYCHA was given until the end of the month to complete work on nearly 5,800 apartments, according to The New York Post.

De Blasio told NY1 host Errol Louis that NYCHA had been unable to gain access to several hundred apartments to complete repairs. “We are going to take legal action, if need be, to get entry to those apartments,” he added. “It is literally about the health and safety of the children in those apartments.”

NYCHA has identified approximately $32 billion in capital repairs over the next five years. Under the deal with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city will provide at least $2.2 billion in funding over the next decade to address issues including lead-based paint and mold. HUD will continue providing an estimated $1.5 billion a year. NYCHA has said that, including the city and federal government's contribution, it has secured funding for one third of the $32 billion. That leaves a gaping deficit of $22 billion.