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Prepare for New EPA Lead Paint Rules

There are only about five more months until the new EPA-inspired lead paint regulations take effect. Even with the date, contractors, and particularly remodelers, are still facing a bit of confusion on what the new rules mean, how they will be enforced, and how they differ from former rules regarding lead paint removal. As always, the government has made things more costly under the guise of “protecting” us from ourselves. Let’s discuss what the April 22nd deadline will mean to your company and how the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Rule will change the way you do business.

EPA lead paint rules

There are only about five more months until the new EPA-inspired lead paint regulations take effect. Even with the date, contractors, and particularly remodelers, are still facing a bit of confusion on what the new rules mean, how they will be enforced, and how they differ from former rules regarding lead paint removal. As always, the government has made things more costly under the guise of “protecting” us from ourselves. Let’s discuss what the April 22nd deadline will mean to your company and how the Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program Rule will change the way you do business.


Who and What is Affected by This New Law?

Just about everybody involved in a pre-1978 home. Since the law specifies any project that involves more than 6 square feet of interior painted surface or 20 square feet of exterior surface, 99.9% of renovation projects will be affected. Though the “opt-out” provision is toast, contractors and remodelers can skip the regulations if they pay to have the home’s paint certified as lead-free by a certified inspector.

Don’t Expect These Rules to Be the Final Say

Last August, the EPA revealed that it would propose two new rules to incorporate a settlement with several groups, including the Sierra Club. The first rule would get rid of the common “opt-out” clause. Existing law allows homeowners to “opt-out” of the strict regulations if they certified there were no children or pregnant women in the home. This allowed professional remodelers to skip having to implement lead-safe work practices.

The other immediate change we can expect is the implementation of “third-party” follow-up testing instead of the original “wipe test” (and where remodelers were responsible for their own evaluation after a completed job). Essentially this creates an entire industry, albeit a small one, that goes around checking the lead paint levels of completed job sites – just what every remodeler and contractor needs. Estimates by the NAHB put this additional “certification” at a cost of $500 to $700 per project. According to the EPA, they will propose this rule when the new law goes into place on April 22 (if you give a moose a muffin…) and implement it by July 2011.

What Do Remodelers Need in Terms of Training?

Contractors and companies that do remodeling must have a person on staff who has taken the EPA-certified course and is certified by them. The training and certification also have to be renewed every five years. There are roughly 60 firms certified to train remodelers (a full list is available at http://ww.epa.gov/lead/pubs/trainingproviders.htm.) Training and certification will run you about $500 per person. Of course, just 135 firms throughout the country are approved to offer the training courses and in some states, there are still no approved trainers.

How Will They Catch Me?

Let’s be blunt. Your city and county inspectors probably aren’t going to call you on your lead paint practices – but you could get audited… in theory. Contractors/remodelers are supposed to keep paper records for up to three years that document how they followed all of the EPA’s specified procedures per the training and certification. And who knows, given the state of most government economies, we wouldn’t put it past at least a few municipalities to jump on the regulation bandwagon and impose some sort of fines now that they have access to a governing body that can back them up.

OK, So… Can Remodelers Ignore the New Rules?

For those small businesses working (unsmartly, we believe) without a license or insurance, this is just one more rule they will likely ignore. For those with much to lose, like larger companies, the new rules are going to be adhered to and you can expect the cost of renovation projects to go up accordingly. Tax the company, tax the consumer.

What Will These New Rules Cost?

A bunch. What has to take place is a certification process as well as a final inspection. Each of these is something that will cost contractors money (especially the inspections, which will need to be done for every renovation project.) The additional cost will definitely be more than the laughable $35 projected by the naive EPA. Remodelers and trade associates have given estimates ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars and of course any time you add certification you need insurance to back up your claims of “compliance”. Smaller projects will particularly be impacted since the added cost is so much more of the total projected budget.

Key Dates for the EPA’s New Lead Paint Regulations

  • Now: Since December 2008, remodelers should have been providing the new EPA lead paint brochure, “Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools,” to all clients living in pre-1978 homes.
  • Oct. 22, 2009: Firms could begin applying to the EPA to become certified to renovate pre-1978 homes.
  • April 22, 2010: Starting on this date, remodelers working on residential homes, home daycare centers or any other “child-occupied facility” built before 1978 must be certified, follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination, and keep detailed records.

What You Can Do

We feel the elimination of the opt-out provision is a mistake and will cost many homeowners money they don’t need to spend. The NAHB has created a suggested form letter (NAHB website membership required) for its members to send along to the EPA with adherence to their approved guidelines for commenting on proposed rules.

Check out the full Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program Rule at http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm.

Summary of the New EPA Lead Paint Rules

Training and Certification

Beginning in April 2010, remodeling firms working in pre-1978 homes will need to be certified. In addition to firm certification, an employee will also need to be a Certified Renovator. When hiring a remodeler, homeowners should verify the is certified and employs a Certified Renovator to be sure the work is completed properly.


Work Practices

Once work starts on a pre-1978 renovation, the Certified Renovator has a number of responsibilities. Beginning with distributing EPA’s Renovate Right brochure to the homeowner and having them sign the pre-renovation form in the booklet. Before the work starts the Certified Renovator will post warning signs outside the work area and supervise setting up containment to prevent spreading dust. The rule lists specific containment procedures for both interior and exterior projects. It forbids certain work practices including open flame or torch burning, use of a heat gun that exceeds 1100°F, and high-speed sanding and grinding unless the tool is equipped with a HEPA exhaust control. Once the work is completed, the regulation specifies cleaning and waste disposal procedures. Clean up procedures must be supervised by a Certified Renovator.

Verification and Record-Keeping

After clean-up is complete the Certified Renovator must verify by matching a cleaning cloth with an EPA verification card. If the cloth appears dirtier or darker than the card, the cleaning must be repeated.

A complete file of records on the project must be kept by the certified renovator for three years. These records include but aren’t limited to verification of owner/occupant receipt of the Renovate Right pamphlet or attempt to inform, documentation of work practices, Certified Renovator certification, and proof of worker training.

Exemptions

It is important to note that these work practices may be waived under these conditions:

  • The home or child-occupied facility was built after 1978.
  • The repairs are minor, with interior work disturbing less than six sq. ft. or exteriors disturbing less than 20 sq. ft.
  • If the house or components test lead-free by a Certified Risk Assessor, Lead Inspector, or Certified Renovator.

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