NAHB members were relieved this summer when the Environmental Protection Agency, yielding to recommendations from the association, backed down from implementing a new requirement for lead testing at the completion of a project under the Lead Paint: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule. That clearance testing requirement would have subjected remodeling customers to even more costs and delays. In a related move, EPA has also added requirements and made clarifications to the original LRRP rule that may change how the lead regulation is enforced. An important article in the latest edition of Nation’s Building News details the changes that were made in areas pertaining to 1) vertical containment; 2) HEPA vacuums; 3) test kits; and 4) online training. For example, for exterior renovations within 10 feet of the property line of adjacent buildings, the EPA had required vertical containment, but has now added the phrase “or equivalent extra precautions in containing the work area,” to the rule, giving renovators the flexibility “to design effective containment systems based on the renovation activity and the work site.” The EPA has also dropped language suggesting that vertical containment is required on exterior renovations in windy conditions, while for exterior work, the distance from impervious sheeting required on the ground has been reduced from 10 feet to the “edge of the vertical barrier.” For interior containment, plastic sheeting only needs to be laid down to the “edge of the vertical barrier,” and not the six feet beyond the work area that was formerly required. Meanwhile, EPA has changed its requirement for contractors to go to the unnecessary expense of buying newer HEPA vacuums, when currently owned vacuums purchased to comply with the 2008 version of the rule were designed to work just as effectively when operated correctly. The revised language in the rule now requires that “HEPA vacuums must be operated and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.” Noting this, NAHB is advising remodelers to keep up-to-date records of the operations and maintenance schedules of their HEPA vacuums. Please see this article in Nation’s Building News for further details on these and other changes to the LRRP requirements. Contact: Matt Watkins (800-368-5242, x8327)
With strong NAHB support, the House Appropriations Committee approved a key amendment offered by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) this week that would cut funding for EPA enforcement of the lead paint rule until the agency approves an appropriate “test kit” for ascertaining the presence of lead paint.
Responding to concerns from NAHB Remodelers, affiliated trade groups and other contractors in his home state and the rest of the country, Rep. Rehberg is putting additional pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to make much-needed improvements to the Lead: Repair, Renovation and Painting rule. On July 12, he offered an amendment to the Interior Department’s appropriations bill that would restrict funding for EPA enforcement activities related to the rule until the agency approves a test kit that meets the “false positive” and “false negative” criteria stated in the regulation.
The night before this amendment was introduced, NAHB sent out a special alert to our members whose congressional representatives sit on the Appropriations Committee, asking them to immediately contact their lawmakers and urge their support for it. NAHB also organized a joint letter of support to the Appropriations Committee from a coalition of 24 stakeholders including the Associated General Contractors of America, Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, National Association of Realtors® and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
Our members responded immediately by calling and emailing their representatives’ offices, and as a result, the amendment was passed by voice vote on July 13. Though the measure must be approved by the full House and Senate before it goes to the President’s desk, this latest advancement marks a great step forward for NAHB’s efforts to seek common-sense answers about the rule, which applies to homes built before 1978. It’s also a testament to the effectiveness of our Remodelers’ members, whose swift response to NAHB’s alert certainly contributed to its passage by the committee.
For more information, email Elizabeth Odina at NAHB or call her at 800-368-5242, x8570.
Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has asked the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) to look into the myriad problems associated with the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP). Specifically, Inhofe sent a letter to committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) asking the committee to conduct an oversight hearing on how the EPA is administering and enforcing the rule. “There is significant bipartisan support on the EPW committee and in the Senate to address problems associated with the rule’s implementation,” he said. Inhofe also noted that, “Given the damage from spring flooding and tornadoes throughout the South and Midwest, it is vital to understand how these EPA rules will affect families and communities trying to rebuild.” Finalized last year, the lead paint rule requires remodelers and other contractors working in homes built before 1978 to take precautions to contain lead dust. The so-called opt-out provision — in which home owners who didn’t have children under six or a pregnant woman in the home were able to waive the requirements — was abolished last year.
Clearance Testing Rule Deadline July 15
Inhofe has also weighed in on a proposal to add clearance testing to remodeling requirements. Currently, remodelers must use a dust cloth on each project and match the color of the cloth to an EPA-provided card to determine whether a significant amount of dust remains. The EPA has proposed replacing this procedure with clearance testing for a subset of renovation activities, which Inhofe has called a “dramatic change” to the lead rule that would “amplify the unintended consequences we have heard from our constituents: that the higher costs from current LRRP renovators have pushed home owners to either hire uncertified individuals or to perform renovation work themselves.” In addition, Inhofe said in a letter to EPA officials, the testing would add even more costs to the renovation work — an expense that the EPA has not accurately portrayed in its analysis of the impact of the new requirement. In its response, the EPA said that its usual practice is to recalculate the economic impact of a proposal before issuing a final ruling. For more on this story, read this article in Nation’s Building News or contact Matt Watkins at 800-368-5242, x8327.
Remodelers and contractors who are trained and certified under the EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule now have the opportunity to provide the agency with comments on the cost of certification and recordkeeping under the new regulation. The agency announced that it is seeking comments in a routine Information Collection Request published in the Federal Register on Jan. 26.
The various estimated cost burdens of the RRP rule are included in a supporting statement from the EPA. In its economic analysis, the EPA estimates that remodelers will spend 3-1/2 hours familiarizing themselves with the rule and completing the initial firm certification form. It should take another three minutes per project to complete, present and explain the post-renovation checklist to the property owners or tenants, according to EPA projections. The EPA also said that it expects remodelers to spend a little less than five hours on recordkeeping. NAHB Remodelers are requested to please use this link to submit your comments to EPA by the deadline of March 28. Contact: Matt Watkins (800-368-5242, x8327)
NAHB is providing online resources for remodelers who are concerned about how their businesses will be affected by new requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule and how to best protect themselves from possible legal prosecution and exposure to potential lawsuits. The rule covers many of the activities that remodelers undertake when performing their job — including certification, insurance, contract language, job pricing, work practices and record keeping. Remodelers can ensure that they are properly instituting the requirements of the rule and protecting their business by knowing the liability issues and the best ways to address them. An extensive list of frequently-asked questions that is posted on NAHB’s website provides this information.
One of the major liabilities may rest with the remodeler’s contract, which will need to be updated to reflect the rule requirements. To help with this, the NAHB legal team has developed members-only template contract language that can be used for this purpose. Remodelers should also consult with an experienced local attorney for assistance in drafting contracts, because some states vary in their lead regulation and other legal requirements. For more information on the lead rule, visit www.nahb.org/leadpaint; or contact Matt Watkins at 800-368-5242, x8327. For information on legal and liability concerns, contact Amy Chai at x8232.
Faulty Test Kits
In an Aug. 25 meeting called by NAHB to communicate our ongoing concerns about the lead paint rule with EPA officials, the agency said it currently has no plans to discontinue use of the faulty lead paint test kits that have been shown to register a “false positive” reading 42% – 78% of the time. Second-generation and more reliable test kits were not available on Sept. 1, as originally planned — according to EPA, none of the new kits that it has reviewed have been able to pass muster as of yet. NAHB representatives noted our concern that use of the three currently recognized test kits will continue to raise the cost of renovations and repairs for home owners as remodelers employ lead-safe work practices even in cases where lead paint may not be present. Nevertheless, as posted on the EPA website, those currently recognized kits will remain in use until new kits that meet the EPA’s criteria are introduced — and at the moment, there is no definite date for this.
EPA reports that 449,000 remodelers and contractors had been trained under the lead rule as of mid-August, while 53,000 firms had been certified. The agency is concerned about the low number of firm certifications at this point, and about contractors’ confusion regarding individual training and firm certification requirements needed to work in pre-1978 homes. EPA has requested that remodelers contact the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-5323 with any complaints or concerns about lead rule training.
EPA officials have released a draft enforcement plan detailing the fines they will levy against contractors for violating the lead rule. The nature of the offense, contractor’s record of previous offenses, and contractor’s willingness to correct issues would all be factored into the severity of the fine, officials say. Meanwhile, 10 states have adopted the lead rule and have assumed implementation and enforcement responsibilities, with Georgia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts the most recent ones to implement the regulation. While most states have instituted identical requirements to the federal rule, some may enforce stricter rules and levy larger fees for certification. For example, in Minnesota, contractors must show proof of EPA lead paint certification before renewing their business licenses, while Rhode Island plans to require clearance testing for completed remodeling projects in homes that have tested positive for lead. Furthermore, in EPA’s latest proposal altering the rule, it wants states to assess enforcement fines of at least $10,000 when violations are found. For more information, see this page on NAHB.org.
Training Opportunities at IBS
Classroom and hands-on training for lead renovation, repair and painting will be offered in pre-show education sessions at the 2011 NAHB International Builders’ Show in Orlando this January. Classroom coursework, or its online equivalent, and hands-on training are required to receive a certificate needed to work in homes built before 1978 where there is lead-based paint. Classroom training will be offered on Jan. 10 and hands-on training, which is also required, will be offered at four different times on Jan. 11. For online training available prior to the show, visit www.nahb.org/onlineleadtraining. For more information and a full schedule of EPA lead paint training at IBS, visit www.buildersshow.com/leadpaint.
EPA Consumer Awareness Campaign
EPA is now in the initial stages of its long-awaited consumer awareness campaign regarding the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. The agency is encouraging contractors whose customers have questions about the rule to direct them to an informative consumer fact sheet on EPA’s web site at epa.gov/getleadsafe. This site also contains print ads, flyers and other resources that remodelers can use to promote awareness of the new regulations among their customers.
Remodelers and other contractors have until Sept. 30 to get their companies certified and to sign up for the training required to comply with the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. Under this rule, which went into effect on April 22, remodelers, window installers and other contractors who work in housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 are required to use lead-safe work practices unless those homes are tested and found to be free of any lead paint. They also must conduct consumer education and verify the clean-up of projects that disturb lead paint in such buildings. In addition, the EPA requires remodelers and contractors to complete six hours of classroom or online training and two hours of hands-on training to comply with the rule.
As this report has previously noted, NAHB led a coalition of industry groups to make EPA aware that it had not approved enough trainers under the lead paint rule and that consumers in some parts of the country could not find certified renovators. As a result of this effort, EPA agreed to delay enforcement of the certification requirement only. So, while remodelers now have until Dec. 30 to complete the training, they may be required to demonstrate that they have scheduled their training before this date. Contractors should be aware that fines for infractions of the rule range as high as $37,500 per violation per day.
The Oregon HBA’s training partner, the Home Builders University, and CEDIA have developed online training in partnership with the National Center for Healthy Housing that is approved by EPA and qualifies for the classroom portion of the training requirements. At this time, thanks to NAHB’s efforts to get the word out, 450,000 contractors have now completed their training.
For a firm certification form, click here. A completed form and $300 fee must be sent to the EPA for approval. Once approved, your firm will receive an EPA Lead Safe Certified Firm logo. Your firm will also be added to the EPA’s searchable database of firms certified to work in pre-1978 homes.
A list of approved training providers for individual certification (certification that is required for the employee supervising the lead-safe work practices for your company) is available on the EPA website. For more information, visit www.nahb.org/leadpaint or contact Kelly Mack, 800-368-5242, x8451.