The latest list of RRP (Renovation, Repair and Painting rule) enforcement activities by the Environmental Protection Agency includes 13 companies settling violations and another three against which the EPA has filed complaints. Among the three are Collegiate Entrepreneurs, a residential painting company in Braintree, Mass., and Kachina Contractor Solutions, a company in Elkins Park, Pa., that trains and certifies contractors in lead-safe renovation. From Collegiate Entrepreneurs the EPA says it seeks “a statutory maximum penalty up to $37,500 for each” of 101 alleged violations. That complaint, from EPA Region 1, in New England, is based on reports of company activity at 82 different properties between May 2009 and July 2010. Charges alleged include failure to educate customers about lead-based paint hazards, as required by law, and failure to maintain proper records.

Expedited Actions Hit Micro-Businesses

If levied, that fine would leave Collegiate Entrepreneurs, a residential painting company that employs college students, paying, potentially, a $3,7857,500 fine. But rarely, if ever, has the EPA collected the full financial penalty allowed by legislation. On the contrary, the agency has opted to downsize financial penalties and negotiate community-service agreements in lieu of dollars, at least on companies large enough to afford them. For instance, College Pro Painters, a Woburn, Mass.–based franchiser that operates in 28 states, reached a settlement with the EPA in August to pay the agency a $7,200 civil penalty for failing to provide the Renovate Right pamphlet to 41 homeowners or tenants in four states in 2008 and 2009. The company also agreed to spend $65,000 restoring or replacing windows at the Harvard Hillel Children’s School, in Cambridge, Mass.

College Pro Painters was not on the list of violators released this week. But of the 13 companies that settled up with the agency, six are painting companies, three are home improvement companies, two are full service remodelers, and two are owners of small apartment buildings. The 13 violators who settled paid, between them, $53,792, an average $4,138 per company. No fine was levied on one company, Hometown Painting, in Warrenville, Ill. — charged with failure to provide information, implement lead-safe work practice standards, and establish records — “in consideration of the respondent’s inability to pay a penalty.” Instead, Hometown Painting promised to obtain company and installer certification before doing any more work in pre-1978 homes.

Seven additional companies among the 13 that settled complaints with the agency qualified as “micro-businesses” under the Pilot RRP Penalty Program. They paid fines of as much as $3,000 but typically half that or less. Two others — Dasa Properties and Mac Stringer Painting and Staining — paid fines under the Lead-Based Paint Expedited Settlement Agreement (ESA) Pilot Program. The ESA program offers “significantly reduced penalties ... to respondents to facilitate quick settlement.”

Enforcement: Token, or Real?

Announcement of the EPA’s action will likely leave its many critics wondering if the agency’s RRP enforcement activity is stringent and methodical or purely arbitrary. In the past, at least one large home improvement company was cited, and settled with the agency, for failing to distribute the required Renovate Right pamphlet to homeowners.

The publication of the latest round of RRP violators shows the agency citing mostly small fry for a variety of violations. Yet more unusual was the EPA charging a company — Kachina Contractor Solutions — which is not a contractor but instead educates and certifies contractors in lead-safe renovation. On Sept. 21, a letter went out from the EPA Region 10 office in Seattle informing Kachina of an administrative complaint arising from lead-safe renovation training sessions the company conducted on May 19, 2010 and on July 7, 2010, in Washington. The four counts cited allege that the trainer provided less than the required time for hands-on training, failed to cover all topics required, failed to ensure full student participation, and failed “to notify EPA of the completion of the renovator courses within the regulatory deadline.” The complaint seeks a penalty “up to $60,000” for the alleged violations.

Kachina vice president of marketing Paul Toub says that the company was “really not concerned” about the charge of cutting classes short and planned to issue, through its attorney, a firm denial. —Jim Cory is editor of REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.

Related articles:

Too Little, Too Late on Lead? Dealers and others wonder what the effect would be if opt out were reinstated

The Enforcers: A Q&A with Peter Lawton, owner of LeadSmart Training Solutions, about lead-safe renovation as a best practice

Media Coverage of EPA’s Lead Rule Performance