The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a pair of news releases today that four businesses are now facing a collective $350,000 worth of fines for failing to comply with the Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule, the Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Rule, and the Real Estate Notification and Disclosure Rule.

Photo courtesy Jo Naylor 
Photo courtesy Jo Naylor 

Three New Hampshire companies were fined a total of $292,010. The EPA issued an administrative complaint against Environmental Compliance Specialists, Inc. (ECSI), saying the the company violated six provisions of the RRP rule. One instance was in 2015, when the EPA says ECSI failed to properly contain the work area. ECSI was hired to do subcontracting work by Brady Sullivan Millworks IV, who is also facing EPA fines. For Sullivan, the EPA alleges the company failed to inform residents about the potential presence of lead paint in their homes.

In May 2015, EPA conducted inspections after New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human Services received several complaints about lead dust in the building. During the investigation, the EPA found dust and chipping paint throughout the interior common areas of the buildings under inspection. This led to a more thorough EPA investigation. As noted in an EPA press release:

"As part of the joint EPA and NH investigation, NH DHHS conducted dust-wipe sampling which confirmed levels of lead in the dust and in paint chips well above acceptable health-protective standards. Further, one building tenant hired a licensed lead paint inspector/risk assessor to perform independent dust testing in their unit and in the common hallway. Analysis of these dust wipe samples also revealed the presence of lead in the dust above the established regulatory levels. Additional testing showed that there was dust containing levels of lead above the regulatory limit in numerous residential units on the third and fourth floors of the McGregor Street building. The source of the dust was sandblasting being performed by ECSI on the first floor.

The City of Manchester ordered a halt to the sandblasting on May 11, 2015, because ECSI had not obtained the required permit from the City to conduct such activity. On June 19, 2015, EPA issued a unilateral order to Brady Sullivan to clean up lead dust and chipping lead paint on the third and fourth floors of the building and in common areas throughout the property.

In a press release, EPA’s New England regional administrator Curt Spalding stated,

EPA always works to ensure that building owners, property managers, and construction contractors understand and comply with federal lead-paint disclosure and lead-safe work practice requirements to protect people from exposure to lead. This is especially important when children are involved since exposure to lead can have serious developmental impacts on kids’ growing bodies and minds.

On the West Coast, the EPA issued a fine to Clearview Home Improvements Inc., for $58,450 for failing to comply with the RRP rule while working on seven residential properties in Southern California. Clearview, operating as Clearview Home Energy Solutions, installs windows and vinyl siding for energy-efficient home improvements. An EPA inspection found the company had performed renovation work in 2013 on homes built prior to 1978, the year lead-paint was banned in the U.S. RRP regulations apply to pre-1978 homes. The work was performed in several homes in Los Angeles, San Pedro, Hunington Beach, Carson, Mission Viejo, and Riverside.

The EPA says that Clearwater failed to properly:

  • confirm that a certified renovate was assigned to the job who could properly comply with the RRP rule;
  • keep proper records that show that the renovate followed lead-safe work practices;
  • maintain proper certification as an RRP firm; and
  • properly provide clients with a federally required Renovate Right brochure, giving the basic facts about lead and information about lead safety during renovation work

All four of these penalties come as the EPA, OSHA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Labor have stepped up their efforts to curb lead exposure following the increased attention paid to the lead water crisis in Flint, Mich., earlier this year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 4 million U.S.. homes are exposed to high levels of lead, along with an estimated 535,000 children between ages 1 through 5 have elevated levels of lead in there blood.

The EPA estimates that there more than 37 million older homes in the United States, the most prone to containing lead-based paints and products such as lead paint on window frames, or chipped, deteriorated lead paint which when inhaled can cause detrimental harm to children if exposed. Lead-contaminated paint dust can be easily inhaled and is a common bi-product in renovation activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition. The lead paint chips can linger on the surfaces of a home for years, and children, workers, and adults can be contaminated through hand-to-mouth contact or breathing.

Lead-based paints have been banned since 1978. However, the harmful carcinogen remains in many schools, buildings, residences, and older homes, particularly those in low-income communities where houses aren’t properly kept up.

In a press release, the EPA cited the process of following the RRP Rule:

If lead painted surfaces are to be disturbed at a job site, the Rule requires individual renovators to complete an initial 8-hour accredited training course and the company or firm that they work for to be certified by EPA. These baseline requirements are critical to ensuring that companies take responsibility for their employees by following proper lead safe work practices including containing and managing lead dust and chips created during such projects. Further, the Rule requires that specific records be created and maintained in order to document compliance with the law.

What measures have you and your company been taking to ensure the health and safety of your employees, your clients, and yourself? Let us know in the comments.