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EPA Tallies Lead Violations for 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

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Contractors, renovators, painters and retailers are among the parties required to pay more than $1 million in penalties for violating lead-based paint safety rules this fiscal year, authorities have announced.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed more than 100 federal enforcement actions aimed at protecting Americans from lead exposure.

peeling paint
© / Paul Hart

Lead dust and debris from improper renovation activities on properties built prior to 1978 is a major source of lead exposure that can cause lead poisoning.

“Renovation companies and their contractors must protect children and other vulnerable people from lead-based paint exposure, especially in minority and low-income communities where housing with lead-based paint is more common,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These enforcement actions show that EPA will hold companies accountable when they put public health at risk, and they promote a level playing field for businesses that follow the rules.”

123 Actions; 3 Rules

The actions—123 settlements and six complaints—were issued from October 2015 through September 2016 for renovations of housing and child-occupied facilities built prior to 1978.

EPA said the actions involved one or more of the three lead-based paint rules—the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule; the Lead Disclosure Rule; and the Lead-based Paint Activities Rule for abatements.

Each settlement requires that the alleged violator return to compliance and, in most cases, pay civil penalties. Collectively, the settlements require violators to pay $1,046,655 in penalties, according to the EPA.

The three rules are part of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act and the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act and apply to housing built before 1978 and child-occupied facilities. Ensuring compliance with all three rules enables EPA to identify and address a variety of lead exposure risks that occur in communities across the nation. Risks can occur when lead paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home renovation and remodeling activities.

Sears Settlement

In this year’s roundup announcement EPA highlighted its recent enforcement action against Sears Home Improvement Products. In September, EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Sears that resolved alleged violations of the Lead RRP Rule for work performed by Sears contractors during home renovation projects across the country.

Sears Holdings

Sears Home Improvement Products is part of the Sears Home Services division of Sears Holdings. Sears Home Improvement contracts with third-party contractors to perform installation and renovation work related to home products customers purchase through Sears, such as windows, doors, roofing and siding.

Under the settlement, Sears said it would implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work minimize lead dust from home renovation activities and pay a $400,000 civil penalty.

In three other settlements, entities agreed to fund voluntary environmental projects collectively valued at up to $409,429 to address lead risks and poisoning. Every project requires lead-based paint abatement, including post-construction clearance testing to ensure that no hazards remain. The complaints propose penalties of up to $197,743 for alleged violations of the RRP Rule and/or Lead Disclosure Rule.

RRP Cases

Of the total settlements reported during fiscal year 2016, 116 were cited for alleged RRP Rule violations involving repair, renovation or painting projects where lead-based paint is disturbed.

Approximately 63 percent of this year’s cases alleged failure to obtain EPA certification and almost half cited non-compliance with requirements to ensure lead-safe work practices, EPA noted.

The following are highlights from settlements involving significant penalties and/or supplemental environmental projects:

  • Hammer and Hand Inc., located in Oregon, paid a $69,398 penalty for alleged RRP Rule work practice and recordkeeping violations.
  • Clearview Home Improvements, located in California, paid a $58,450 fine for alleged noncompliance with RRP Rule requirements for certification, pre-renovation education, firm responsibility and recordkeeping.
  • Zidan Management Group Inc., located in Indiana, agreed to perform an abatement project valued at up to $41,500 and paid a $3,675 fine to settle alleged violation of RRP Rule work practice and certification requirements.

The RRP Rule requires that individuals performing renovations are properly trained and certified, give owners and occupants EPA’s Renovate Right lead hazard information pamphlet before beginning work, and follow specific lead-safe work practices during renovations.

Disclosing Lead

Five of the settlements reported in fiscal year 2016 alleged Lead Disclosure Rule violations. This rule continues to be an important tool for reducing lead exposures and increasing awareness of lead risks. The rule generally requires lessors and sellers to disclose to prospective tenants and purchasers specific information about lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards.

In one case, a landlord in Illinois committed to perform a $308,000 lead abatement project and pay a $5,000 cash penalty to settle alleged Lead Disclosure Rule infractions. This case was a joint enforcement action by EPA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In another case, Carrington Real Estate Services LLC and Carrington Mortgage Services LLC, both in California, agreed to spend at least $59,929 to donate blood-lead test equipment to non-profit community health clinics, and pay a $19,976 penalty to settle alleged Lead Disclosure Rule infractions.

Abatement Rule

The Lead-based Paint Activities Rule requires that abatement contractors be trained and certified, and follow abatement-specific lead-safe work practices. EPA-authorized states typically implement and enforce the abatement requirements of this rule.

However, during fiscal year 2016, EPA took action in two cases. In one case, Lead Me Out Environmental Services Inc. of New York paid a civil penalty of $20,000 for alleged abatement violations.

More information: 2016 enforcement cases.


Tagged categories: Contractors; EPA; Health and safety; Lead; Lead Disclosure Rule; Lead paint abatement; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); Maintenance + Renovation; Paint Removal; Regulations; Renovation

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