The EPA is cracking down on lead paint removal and disposal, and if you’re a contractor, landlord or realtor, ensuring you’re compliant should be a priority in your operations.
Over the past year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued several fines against contractors, property management firms and even renovation companies featured on hit tv shows after they failed to follow lead-safe work practices.
Even minimal exposure to lead-based paint can harm those who are regularly exposed, especially children, unborn babies and pregnant women. Lead gets into the bloodstream when people ingest lead paint chips or breathe lead paint dust.
Symptoms of lead poisoning include headaches, muscle pain, digestive problems, memory loss, attention disorders and pregnancy complications. Long-term health problems can occur as well, including kidney damage, nervous system problems, learning disabilities in children and birth defects.
Although the federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in residential and commercial buildings, many structures built before 1978 still have toxic paint on their walls, sometimes under layers of new paint.
When renovations unearth lead-based paint, contractors must follow safe work practices for removing and disposing of the paint. This is where several companies over the past year have run into trouble from the EPA, as the organization has led several investigations into whether realtors, contractors and landlords have complied with rules that protect the public from lead exposure.
Lead-Based Paint Laws
The EPA is sending a clear message: The organization is committed to enforcing regulations that protect the public from exposure to lead-based paint. If your business doesn’t comply with lead-based paint laws put into place, it could face steep fines and penalties.
According to the EPA, regulations under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act and the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act apply to most dwellings built before 1978. The TSCA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule and Lead-Based Activities Rule require that contractors become trained and certified in lead-safe work practices.
These lead-safe work practices include a number of steps contractors should take when on a job site, from determining whether lead testing is warranted to containing the work area to prevent the escape of dust and debris.
It’s important to note that in addition to federal regulations, several states have their own sets of laws that must be followed. For example, in California, it is a crime for an individual to engage in acts related to the evaluation or abatement of lead paint unless that person is certified or accredited.
How Disposal Plays A Role
While compliance often focuses on the removal of lead-based paint, it’s important to consider disposal as part of the process as well.
If you’re a business or homeowner, and your contractor simply wants to place hazardous material in a plastic bag and throw it in your dumpster, this is an enormous red flag that proper protocols are not being followed.
If you’re a contractor or abatement company and have followed proper protocols in removing lead-based paint from a property, the disposal of it is not the time to stop following the rules.
The EPA states that any waste from renovation activities that involve lead-based paint must be contained to prevent the release of dust and debris before the waste is removed and transferred for storage or disposal. Keep in mind that this waste is not solely the paint chips or drywall itself. Waste includes a variety of materials that have been exposed to lead-based paint dust, including:
- Protective sheeting
- HEPA filters
- Dirty water
- Mop heads and wipes
- Protective clothing
- Respirators and gloves
- Other architectural components
At the end of each work day, as well as once the renovation is concluded, the waste must be transported and stored in a manner that prevents the release of dust and debris.
Waste water must also be disposed of properly and NEVER dumped down a drain or storm drain unless local rules permit it if the water is filtered.
When disposing of lead paint and any materials used during the removal process, it’s critical to know your state laws. Some state laws might be more stringent than federal regulations.
For example, at the federal level, most residential renovations and the waste generated during them are classified as solid, non-hazardous waste and should be taken to a licensed solid waste landfill, according to the EPA. During renovations at commercial, public or child-occupied facilities, any waste generated is considered hazardous and requires special disposal methods.
However, in California, lead-based paint is considered hazardous waste. This is where proper disposal gets more challenging for abatement companies. For example, Los Angeles County outlines what is presumed non-hazardous waste and hazardous waste.
Waste materials like intact painted building materials, filtered wash water, HEPA vacuum disposable work clothes, cleaned respirator filters and HEPA vacuumed plastic sheeting are presumed non-hazardous.
On the other hand, lead-based paint chips and dust are considered hazardous, and disposal methods must adhere to hazardous waste disposal methods. Other types of hazardous waste include many of the materials we mentioned above that are commonly used during the abatement cleanup process, including rags, sponges, mops and scrapers.
How A Hazardous Waste Disposal Company Can Help
When removing lead based paint from commercial properties or residential properties, partnering with a disposal company experienced in transporting and disposing of toxic substances can help ensure you are meeting all state and federal regulations.
Hazardous waste disposal companies can help locate the type of landfill that accepts your waste, as well as help you determine which of your materials can be classified as non-hazardous waste … saving your company and your client money.
When looking for a disposal company, the best waste disposal services will develop a customized transportation plan, complete regulatory paperwork and provide you with proof that your lead paint contaminated products have been properly disposed of so that you have this proof for your records.
The best disposal companies will also have in-depth knowledge of the rules and regulations that apply to your renovation or abatement company, both at the state and federal levels. Make sure that you also:
- Only work with certified companies that are registered with the DTSC
- Avoid hazardous waste brokers that will act as unqualified middlemen and drive up costs
- Check to ensure a company has experience in lead-based paint disposal
An experienced hazardous waste removal company will help alleviate any challenges you may face during the lead-based paint removal process and protect your business so that you can continue to offer services that protect the health of those most vulnerable to lead paint exposure.