EPA Issues AK Company Lead Paint Penalty
Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency penalized an Anchorage, Alaska-based renovation company for violating the Lead Renovation and Repair Rule. GreenBuild Design and Construction, LLC, reportedly performed renovations without certification under the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, among other findings.
The EPA’s Region 10 conducted an investigation, starting in 2018, reportedly showing that the company violated the federal Toxic Substances Control Act’s LRRP Rule. The rule aims to protect the public from lead-based paint hazards associated with pre-1978 homes by requiring workers to be certified in lead-safe work practices.
“Exposure to lead-based paint can cause serious, and sometimes permanent health effects, and children are especially vulnerable,” said Stacy Murphy, Acting Director of EPA Region 10’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division.
“Contractors and renovation firms play an important role in protecting people from exposure to lead and we are committed to ensuring that businesses follow the law.”
According to the release, the EPA initiative conducted its investigation after communicating with Greenbuild “multiple times” about the law requirements. Additionally, the company applied for multiple renovation permits without the required training and certification.
The EPA reports that it found the company committed the following violations:
After filing a complaint, the Administrative Law Judge hearing the case found that “on a number of occasions, from 2015 through 2018, [GreenBuild] failed to respond to correspondence from the Agency and failed to participate in scheduled inspections with EPA, even after promising to attend.”
The judge reportedly found GreenBuild liable for the violations, issuing the $25,609 penalty. The full decision on the case can be read here.
Lead Paint Health Effects
While the use of lead-based paints was banned over 40 years ago, the remnants of lead paint continue to be a major environmental and public health problem. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that in 2019, lead exposure counted for 900,000 deaths and 21.7 million years of healthy life lost worldwide due to long-term effects on health.
According to the EPA, if a home was built before 1978, it is more likely to have lead-based paint. Homes built prior to 1940 have an 87% likelihood to contain lead paint. While still present in millions of homes, it can be under layers of new paint and typically not be a problem.
However, when paint peels and cracks, it creates lead paint chips and dust. Lead dust can also come off of surfaces exposed to friction, such as windows, doors, floors, porches, stairways and cabinets. Prior to renovations or repairs, one should test for lead paint or contact a professional.
Lead can be swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin, with inhalation being the largest intake of lead. The lead is then stored in the bones, blood and tissue, where it is released back into our body over time.
A small level of lead in an adult’s system is less than 10 mcg/dL. Anything higher than that number and up to 25 mcg/dL is an indicator of regular lead exposure, while 80 mcg/dL or higher requires medical treatment. However, lower levels can also present symptoms of lead poisoning.
For children and those who are pregnant, those levels should be much lower as there is higher risk. A level of five mcg/dL can cause development problems for an unborn child, while children are at risk with 3.5 mcg/dL of lead in their blood.
Over time, high levels of lead in the bloodstream can cause serious health conditions:
Other Recent LRRP Violation
Earlier this year, in February, the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA announced a settlement with a Chicago-based company and its contractors regarding alleged violations of the federal Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting regulations. According to the allegations, Logan Square Aluminum Supply Inc., frequently subcontracted work to uncertified firms and did not use lead-safe work practices.
The EPA reportedly first discovered the violations through customer complaints about a project performed in Evanston, Illinois. In addition to not using lead-safe work practices, the company allegedly did not perform required post-renovation cleaning, provide the EPA-required lead-based paint pamphlets to occupants, or establish records of compliance.
As defined by the RRP rule, renovation is any activity that disturbs painted surfaces and includes most repair, remodeling and maintenance activities, such as electrical work, plumbing, carpentry and window replacement.
For projects, especially in locations with children under the age of six who are most susceptible to lead hazards, Logan Square must contract with only EPA-certified firms and renovators, ensure they maintain certification, use lead-safe work practices, and document their work with checklists during renovations.
Under the settlement, Logan Square will implement a comprehensive program to ensure that its contractors are certified and trained to use lead-safe work practices to avoid creating lead dust during home renovation activities.
Additionally, the company will pay a $400,000 penalty and perform $2 million of lead-based paint abatement work in lower-income properties located in Chicago and Chicago suburbs in communities with a higher incidence of childhood lead poisoning.
The DOL reports that Logan Square will add a link on its website to EPA’s content on lead-safe work practices. The company will also take action to: