Property Firm Penalized for Lead Paint
In the latest slew of penalizations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for lead-based paint violations, a property management and development firm in Waterbury, Connecticut, was recently fined.
Russell Apartments, LLC, was alleged of asbestos and lead-based paint violations that violate both the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
Recent Lead Exposure Initiative
Taking place for a second year, the Enhancing Lead-Safe Work Practices through Education and Outreach (ELSWPEO) program is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advance environmental justice.
“This initiative demonstrates how collaboration between national, state, local and Tribal governments and organizations can protect underserved communities from exposure to toxic chemicals like lead,” said Michal Freedhoff, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, at the time. “Many communities across the U.S. are still at risk for lead exposure, and we are committed to lowering and preventing it.”
According to an Agency-issued news release, the EPA will offer free training on lead-safe work practices, which include RRP lead-safe certification training and Lead Awareness Curriculum sessions to contractors in 10 communities across the nation and its territories.
As part of the program, two sessions will be offered. These include a Lead Awareness Curriculum Train-the-Trainer session, which is designed to equip community leaders to educate their communities about lead and lead exposure, as well as actions to reduce and prevent childhood exposure. An Understanding Lead session will educate community members interested in learning more about lead, lead exposure and actions to reduce their exposure.
The communities chosen for involvement due to having known lead exposure issues and a demonstrated need for RRP-certified contractors include: Stratford, Connecticut; Loíza, Puerto Rico; Arecibo, Puerto Rico; Newark, New Jersey; Portsmouth, Virginia; Miami, Florida; Toledo, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; Billings, Montana (with a focus on tribal members); and Sacramento, California.
Last year, the program was reported to complete ELSWPEO outreach in 11 communities. In total, the EPA helped to certify 282 contractors in lead-safe work practices and educated 245 community leaders and 170 community members.
The initiative will complement the historic investment of $4 billion to reduce lead exposure from President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law and support the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to ensuring all Americans can live in healthy homes.
Reducing Lead Exposure with RRP Rule
At the end of that same month, the EPA shared that it was working to reduce childhood lead exposure through improved compliance with the lead-based paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule.
As part of the Agency’s efforts, at the end of the month, it hosted National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW), which officially kicked off on Oct. 23 and lasted until Oct. 29.
Throughout the week, EPA Region 8 shared that it would be summarizing compliance activity related to the RRP Rule and reminding residents and owners of pre-1978 homes about the risks of lead-based paint and the importance of following lead-safe practices to keep families safe.
According to the EPA, this year the Agency conducted 81 compliance monitoring activities, including providing educational materials to commercial renovators to promote compliance with the RRP Rule, and issued 13 Notices of Noncompliance to contractors.
The EPA also reached agreements with eight contractors in Colorado and Montana to settle violations of the Rule resulting in over $30,000 in penalties.
Contractors settling RRP Rule violations in Colorado include Larsen Development Company, Colorado Quality Painting, A+ Handyman Home Improvement, Specialty Construction, Nehemiah General Contractors, and Capital Roofing and Restoration. Contractors settling RRP violations in Montana include Pella Windows and Doors and Paramount Construction and Remodeling.
In its news release, the EPA shared that these contractors’ violations varied, but included failures to obtain EPA lead-safe firm certifications, failures to maintain records documenting compliance and failures to employ lead-safe work practices when working on pre-1978 homes.
All cases have since resolved certification and training deficiencies and made commitments to future compliance.
Around the same time, the EPA settled with 22 residential home renovators and contractors from Idaho and Washington that were in violation of lead-based paint safety regulations.
The fines were the result of the EPA’s compliance and enforcement program having conducted 137 inspections of home renovation contractors. According to the EPA, the number of inspections is the highest the region has completed in previous years.
Half of the inspections were reportedly carried out in communities with environmental justice concerns.
Under the terms of the settlements, 22 companies from Idaho and Washington agreed to pay civil penalties and to certify that they are complying with the Renovation, Repair and Painting certification requirements prior to offering and performing renovations, as required by the RRP Rule.
Companies whose enforcement cases were concluded this year in EPA’s Region 10 include:
The recent cases were highlighted by the EPA as part of the 2022 NLPPW and Children’s Health Month, to raise awareness about children’s environmental health, including the dangers and potential health impacts of lead.
Most Recent Lead-Based Paint Cases
Also occurring at the end of last month, the EPA announced that it had reached a settlement with Russell Apartments, LLC, (Russell) a Waterbury, Connecticut-based property management and development firm. According to the EPA, the firm had been alleged of violating the CAA and TSCA as a result of asbestos and lead-based paint violations.
Specifically, the EPA alleged that Russell violated both the asbestos regulations under the CAA Section 112 and the National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Asbestos (Asbestos NESHAP) and the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule under TSCA.
These allegations were made because of Russell’s failure to notify the EPA of its intention to renovate, failing to adequately wet while stripping asbestos, and failing to keep asbestos waste material adequately wet. In addition, the firm had failed to train and certify its contractors in lead-based paint remediation when it carried out the renovation activities.
Following the discovery of the possible violations, Russell was reported to have obtained the services of an environmental abatement firm to address the conditions at the site and bring the facility into full compliance.
The facility is in a potential environmental justice area of concern and was part of a geographic initiative in Connecticut to address areas with environmental justice concerns.
This is the first known case by EPA's New England Region, that addressed both CAA asbestos and TSCA lead-based paint violations.
“Reducing exposure to lead and other chemicals is a top priority for EPA, especially in communities that may have shouldered a disproportionate share of exposure,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “This settlement, triggered by EPA's Connecticut Geo Initiative on Lead, increases awareness and improves compliance with lead paint renovation laws, as well as asbestos Clean Air Act laws, to ensure Waterbury families are better protected.”
The EPA went on to report that over the past several years, EPA New England conducted geographically focused outreach and compliance assistance efforts to raise awareness about lead-based paint hazards among painters and home renovation companies, property managers and landlords, as well as private homeowners.
While the NLPPW has since ended, the Agency shares that it is continuing to prioritize education and sharing information with companies and the public regarding federal lead paint rules.