WASHINGTON–The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced over 100 federal enforcement actions completed over the last year that require entities like renovation contractors, landlords and property managers to protect communities and public health from exposure to lead. Lead paint is the main way people are exposed to lead in the United States, and lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children and their developing nervous systems at the greatest risk.
“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.”
From October 2015 through September 2016, EPA entered into 123 settlements for alleged violations of 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–and filed six complaints for ongoing actions. 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.
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. These risks can occur when lead paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home renovation and remodeling activities. A blood lead test is the only way to determine if a child has a high lead level. Parents who think their child has been in contact with lead dust should contact their child’s health care provider.
In September 2016, EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Sears Home Improvement Products Inc. that resolves alleged violations of the Lead RRP Rule for work performed by Sears’ contractors during home renovation projects across the country. Under the settlement, Sears will 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 of the 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.
Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule Enforcement Action
Of the total settlements reported during fiscal year 2016, 116 cited 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.
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.
Lead Disclosure Rule Enforcement Actions
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.
Lead-based Paint Activities Rule – Abatement Enforcement Actions
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.