The EPA is taking action to safeguard the community from the dangers of hazardous lead paint.
If you’re a contractor, landlord, property management company or realtor, it’s important to take note. Several cases against construction businesses, renovators and property management companies this year alone have led to steep fines and even prison time.
In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a snapshot of enforcement actions taken across the country this year so far to protect children and their families from lead-based paint. Frequently used in homes and commercial buildings through the mid-20th century, lead-based paint is still found in many older properties today.
While the federal government banned the residential use of lead paint in 1978, it’s estimated that old lead paint remains in more than 34 million older homes, according to the EPA. Nearly 3.3 million of these homes have children younger than 6.
The health hazards that lead-based paint poses are significant, especially in children and pregnant women. These hazards include lead poisoning, neurological and cognitive effects, anemia, kidney and cardiovascular damage, reproductive issues, and behavioral and emotional problems.
During renovation work, companies must protect their customers by using lead-safe work practices. Landlords and property management companies are required to inform tenants and buyers about known lead paint in properties as well.
Several companies violated these laws and paid the consequences. If you own or manage an older property or manage a renovation company and know it’s important to be prepared for what you may unearth, here’s what you need to know to avoid the same fate.
EPA Enforcement Actions in 2023
Reviewing lead paint removal and disposal violations that occurred this year can be helpful for property managers, renovators and related professionals to learn from these mistakes and improve their practices, ultimately promoting safer and more compliant environments.
Here are a few EPA enforcement actions taken to protect communities from hazardous lead paint, according to the EPA.
An Indiana contractor was sentenced to 16 months in prison for falsifying compliance records and failing to use lead-safe work practices at multiple properties. At one of those properties, a child had tested for elevated levels of lead in their blood.
Logan Square Aluminum Supply, a major Chicago-based firm, agreed to pay a $400,000 penalty, as well as pay for $2 million in lead paint abatement work in lower-income properties located in the Chicago area that had a high number of incidents of childhood lead poisoning.
GreenBuild Design and Construction must pay more than $25,000 in fines for repeatedly violating lead paint renovation rules. The EPA found that the Anchorage, Alaska-based company failed to ensure that renovation work was being done by a certified renovator, to obtain the proper certification, to post warning signs around the work site and to cover the ground with impermeable material to contain lead-contaminated dust and debris caused by the renovation work.
A New York City general contracting firm, APEX Building Company, agreed to pay the United States more than $600,000 for lead paint violations involving the renovations of 935 apartments in the city.
The EPA also issued four national subpoenas to property management companies in 2023. These companies manage privatized military housing, and the subpoenas require the management companies to assess their compliance with lead paint regulations and take any appropriate action to ensure military personnel and their families are protected from lead paint exposure.
How Lead Paint Exposure Happens
Lead paint exposure can happen in several ways, whether it’s before renovation work is done or during the process.
Particularly, young children can be exposed to lead paint dust by chipped or peeling paint that they ingest or touch and then put their hands in their mouths.
When homes with lead-based paint undergo renovation or remodeling, the disturbance of painted surfaces can also release lead dust and chips into the environment.
One often overlooked way of exposure is through lead contamination in soil. Lead dust from deteriorating paint can settle in the soil around the exterior of homes. Children may be exposed to lead by playing in contaminated soil or by bringing it into the home on their shoes.
Lead-Based Paint Removal Requirements
Lead-based paint removal requirements are strengthening. Earlier this year, the EPA announced a proposal that would strengthen requirements for the removal of lead-based paint hazards in buildings built prior to 1978 and in childcare facilities.
If finalized, the proposed rules would strengthen the EPA’s regulations under section 402 of the Toxic Substances Control Act by revising the dust-lead hazard standards (DLHS), which identify hazardous lead in dust on floors and window sills. The EPA accepted public comments on the matter through the beginning of October.
The revisions would also impact dust-lead clearance levels (DLCL), or the amount of lead that can remain in the dust on floors, window sills and window troughs after lead removal activities.
You can read more about these proposed changes in our article, Lead-Based Paint Removal Requirements Strengthening. It’s particularly important for renovation or construction companies and property management companies to stay on top of these regulations when an abatement (or removal of lead-based paint) is performed. Testing is required to ensure dust lead levels stay below specified numbers.
In addition to these regulations, there are several other removal requirements at both the federal and state levels. 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.
There are many additional lead-safe work practices mandated by the EPA that cover topics like training and certification, containment, dust minimization, cleanup and warning signs. These work practices also cover proper waste disposal.
How A Waste Disposal Company Can Help Your Business
Waste materials, including paint chips and dust, that are contaminated with lead paint must be contained, collected and disposed of as hazardous waste in accordance with EPA regulations.
Certified and experienced hazardous waste disposal companies can play a crucial role in helping businesses, especially construction and renovation companies, navigate the complex regulations surrounding lead-based paint removal.
They are well-equipped to handle the proper collection and disposal of lead-contaminated waste materials, ensuring compliance with EPA regulations and minimizing the risk of environmental contamination.
These waste disposal companies have the expertise to safely transport, treat and dispose of hazardous materials, including lead-contaminated waste, in accordance with federal and state laws.
It’s important to keep in mind that the type of waste you may have won’t only be paint chips or drywall. Contaminated materials may include:
- Protective sheeting
- HEPA filters
- Dirty water
- Mop heads and wipes
- Protective clothing
- Respirators and gloves
- Other architectural components
Any waste associated with abatement activities must be stored and transported in a way that prevents the release of lead-contaminated dust and debris.
In California, lead-based paint is considered hazardous waste, but you may also have some materials that can be classified as non-hazardous waste. It’s critical that all of your waste types be taken to the appropriate waste facilities or landfills where they can be safely disposed of.
By enlisting hazardous waste services, businesses can streamline their operations, reduce potential liabilities and focus on their core activities while entrusting the critical task of responsible waste management to professionals.