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EPA: Navy Landlords Hid Families’ Lead Risks

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

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Two contractors are facing more than $150,000 in federal fines for allegedly failing to disclose residential lead paint hazards at two Navy bases to military families, some with young children.

 Military families leased housing that had been painted with lead paint

 Photos: Balfour Beatty Communities

Military families with young children leased housing without being told about lead paint or its risks as required by law, EPA said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has accused Northeast Housing LLC and Balfour Beatty Military Housing Management LLC of failing—“on multiple occasions over several years”—to alert prospective tenants to potential lead paint hazards in base housing managed by the companies.

Disclosure Violations Alleged

In a complaint announced Tuesday (Jan. 10), the EPA contends that the companies violated the 1996 Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program, which requires landlords and owners of private, public and federally owned or subsidized housing to disclose known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards to prospective buyers or renters.

Landlords and owners must also provide prospective tenants and buyers with an EPA pamphlet about lead hazards.

In 2001, EPA established hazard standards for paint, dust, and soil in most pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities. About three-quarters of the nation’s pre-1978 housing (about 64 million dwellings) contains lead paint, EPA says.

The complaint sets a total fine of $153,070.

2 Bases Affected

EPA contends that the companies violated the Disclosure Rule in executing 13 contracts from 2007 to 2010 to lease housing to personnel at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME, and the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, CT.

The EPA complaint details that the companies failed to provide available records and reports regarding lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards to 13 renters (10 at Portsmouth and three at NSB).  Nine of the renters were families with children; seven had children under the age of six.

The housing at both bases is owned by Northeast, a joint venture limited liability company between the Department of the Navy and a wholly owned subsidiary of Balfour Beatty Communities, LLC, of which the BBC affiliate is the managing member.

There are about 25 target housing units at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where housing was built in the 1800s and early 1900s. There are about 735 target housing units at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, which was built in the early 1960s.

‘Serious Public Health Concern’

"Exposure to lead paint is a serious public health concern here in New England because of how much older housing we have,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office.

“Further, military families make significant sacrifices to protect our nation, and the health of those families, as well as all families, should not be jeopardized by not being notified of potential lead hazards in the housing where they reside.”

 The housing at issue was at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, CT, (shown here)
The housing at issue was at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, CT, (newer housing is shown here) and at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME.

“Property managers and owners play an important part in helping to prevent lead poisoning by following lead paint disclosure requirements and making sure families are aware of potential lead hazards in homes.”

Balfour Beatty Responds

Balfour Beatty Capital Group said in a statement that the violations were a “technical” error that posed no health risk.

“The EPA complaint relates to lead-based paint disclosures in connection with 13 leases executed between 2008 and 2010 at NSY Portsmouth and NSB New London,” the statement said. “In these 13 cases, residents were provided with information regarding the presence of lead-based paint (LBP) in their home; however, the lead-based paint addendum the residents signed did not properly list the LBP reports they were given. In addition, we are determining whether copies of all reports were made accessible to residents.

“At this time, we are not aware of any health concerns relating to our residents as a result of the technical violations alleged by the EPA. Since being informed of the documentation deficiencies, Balfour Beatty has conducted additional training with our personnel and reinforced the importance of completing all documentation steps when executing leases. We remain committed to best practices and providing our service members and their families with a safe living environment.”

The company noted that it manages more than 2,100 units of military housing at the two bases.

Lead Risks and Requirements

Federal law requires sellers and landlords selling or renting housing built before 1978 to:

• Provide a lead hazard information pamphlet to inform renters and buyers about the dangers associated with lead paint;

• Include lead notification language in sales and rental forms;

• Disclose any known lead-based paint and paint hazards in the living unit and property and provide copies of all available reports to buyers or renters;

• Allow a lead inspection or risk assessment by home buyers; and

• Maintain records certifying compliance with federal laws for a period of three years.

Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure, which can cause a wide variety of cognitive impairments, learning disabilities and behavior problems.

   

Tagged categories: EPA; Health and safety; Lead Disclosure Rule; Regulations; Residential; U.S. Navy; Violations

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (1/12/2012, 9:40 AM)

Why is lead testing of the children in these homes not part of the EPA actions required? The concrete data of these tests would demonstrate that training employees after the fact does not correct the damage already done.


Comment from Catherine Brooks, (1/13/2012, 8:59 AM)

I heard from a reputable source that the citations are the EPA job. Health Depts and families must initiate lead testing.


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