Renovators Hit by New Lead Regulations

Here is a fascinating article about the impact of the new lead regulations. This is copied from The Examiner...

By: David Sherfinski

Examiner Staff Writer

May 9, 2010

"Local contractors and builders are scrambling to comply with costly new federal regulations for work done on pre-1978 homes -- to avoid facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Contractors working on homes built in 1978 or earlier must now undergo lead safety training and become certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, with a penalty of up to $37,500 per violation for noncompliance.

The new laws could add thousands of dollars to the cost of many basic home remodeling jobs like painting and window replacement, experts said.

The new laws, which went into effect April 22, are intended to "reduce the incidents of lead-based poisoning in this country," said Dale Kemery, a spokesman for the EPA. But local remodelers and contractors say that the new rules will make fix-up projects on older home prohibitively expensive.

Some companies, such as Elk Remodeling in Northern Virginia, will no longer work on homes built in or before 1978.

"I'm basically going to lose money to do something the EPA has mandated?" said Tim Shellnutt, president of Elk. "What the homeowners don't understand [is] their homes are going to become money pits. Why would they give up 20 to 25 windows in a day to do eight?"

Contractors are also worried that the new regulations will give rise to an underground, unlicensed remodeling community that will be able to undercut their pricing. "I think that's a real concern," said Jerry Levine, president of the D.C.-Metro Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, adding that there are already a number of unlicensed contractors doing work. "Are all of these guys going to all of a sudden follow the EPA edict? I doubt it."

Costs will get passed along to homeowners, but contractors -- who bear the liability -- are being affected even more, said Dave Wise, manager for the Alside Supply Center branch in Lorton, Va.

Opt out? Not anymore...

Under the original Renovation, Repair and Painting Program, published in the Federal Register April 22, 2008, not every person who lives in homes built before 1978 would have to comply with the new training and work practice requirements. If homeowners certified that the house is not occupied by a child under the age of 6, a pregnant woman, and the home is not a child-occupied facility, they could "opt out" of the requirements.

Environmental and advocacy groups petitoned against the rule, and the EPA subsequently removed the opt-out provision as part of a settlement. "By removing the opt-out provision, the rule will go farther toward protecting children under age six and pregnant women, as well as older children and adult occupants of target housing where no child under age six or pregnant woman resides," according to the Federal Register.

In addition to undergoing training and becoming certified, there are also work practice requirements under the new rules:

» Renovators must use work-area containment to prevent dust and debris from leaving the work area.

» Certain work practices are prohibited. Open-flame burning, using heat guns at greater than 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit and the use of power tools without high-efficiency particulate air exhaust control (to collect dust generated) are prohibited.

» Thorough cleaning followed by a cleaning verification procedure to minimize exposure to lead-based paint hazards are required.

» Generally, minor repair and maintenance activities (less than 6 square feet per interior room or 20 square feet per exterior project) are exempt from the work practices requirements. However, this exemption does not apply to jobs involving window replacement or demolition, or that involve the use of any of the prohibited practices listed above."

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