EPA reports on lead paint enforcement
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March 04, 2014
EPA reports on lead paint enforcement

Policing the federal lead renovation, repair, and painting (RRP) rule may not be among EPA’s current list of national (enforcement initiatives).  But the Agency’s recent announcement of enforcement against 35 home renovation contractors and training providers who allegedly violated the rule in 17 states in almost every region of the country is clearly intended to send the message that there are consequences for noncompliance.

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The cases were settled between May 2013 and January 2014. 

Large-case preference

The 2008 RRP rule (amended in 2010 and 2011) requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting that disturb lead-based paint in homes, childcare facilities, and preschools built before 1978 have their firms certified by the EPA (or an EPA-authorized state), use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers, and follow lead-safe work practices. 

While the RRP rule provides substantial protections for children, particularly in low-income communities, inspection and enforcement are challenges for the EPA, which traditionally prefers to direct its limited resources at major facilities, wherein enforcement results in large returns for the environment and human health.  The Agency also prefers to ring up multi-million-dollar settlements both in penalties and supplemental environmental projects (SEP) funded by alleged violators. 

$65,000 penalty

Some settlements in the latest round of RRP rule cases do involve SEPs, with several valued at about $25,000 each.  But the majority of the actions affected small and very small businesses (including individuals who own one or two rental properties), resulting in fines as low as $100 because of “inability to pay.”  About half the penalties were under $2,500 and half were in the $3,500 to $30,000 range.

All penalties added up to about $274,000, a small amount considering the number of cases.

The highest penalty—$65,000—was levied against an engineering/construction firm with facilities in four states.  That case involved renovations of two residential properties in Omaha, Nebraska.  The alleged violations included failure to post signs defining the work area and warning occupants and other persons at the property; failure to close all doors and windows within 20 feet of the renovation; failure to cover the ground with plastic sheeting or other impermeable material; and failure to clean the work area after completing the renovation.

Among the many other violations penalized in the remaining cases were failure to provide a lead hazard information pamphlet to the property owners; failure to apply for firm certification; failure to obtain firm certification; failure to ensure all workers are either certified renovators or have been trained by a certified renovator; failure to ensure a certified renovator is assigned to each renovation; failure to comply with work practice standards: failure to establish and maintain records or make records available to demonstrate compliance with the rule; failure to cover all ducts in the work area; and failure to contain waste from renovation activities.

Training

The RRP rule includes requirements for entities that provide training to renovators, and the EPA lists four training providers in its settlements notices.  Alleged violations include failure to conduct a hands-on skills assessment to ensure that students successfully completed courses before they received certificates of completion; failure to teach all the elements required for the hands-on portion of the renovator initial course; failure to provide the EPA prior notification of all renovator courses offered; and failure to provide the EPA with postcourse notification. 

Information about the RRP settlements

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