Contractors must follow today the Environmental Protection Agency's new work standards and recordkeeping requirements designed to protect consumers against lead poisoning even as those contractors get extra time to be certified in lead-safe practices, the EPA is stressing in a newly issued question-and-answer guide on the controversial program.
"EPA is not stopping its enforcement against any renovation firms and individual renovators who do not comply with requirements of work practice standards and associated recordkeeping requirements," the agency declared in the document, which was first posted to its website Friday and updated with a correction today. "However, EPA is providing additional time for renovation firms and workers to obtain the necessary training and certifications before enforcement of the firm certification and individual renovator requirements begins."
The document also stressed that the EPA's June 18 announcement regarding the delay in enforcing the rule's certification requirements doesn't apply in the eight states that have adopted their own Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) programs: Wisconsin, Iowa, North Carolina, Mississippi, Kansas, Rhode Island, Utah, and Oregon. "Renovators working in these states must comply with all applicable state laws, notwithstanding this guidance," the EPA said.
The new document adds some clarity to the RRP issue, but it likely won't answer all questions and almost certainly won't satisfy the rule's many critics in renovation and construction supply. The rule, which was issued April 22, 2008, and took effect on the same date this year, is intended to protect children and pregnant women from lead-based paint, exposure to which can lead to learning disabilities, behavior issues and reduced intelligence. It requires contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. (See EPA fact sheet.) Ignoring the new rules can lead to fines of up to $37,500 per day.
The National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association and other trade groups have vehemently criticized the EPA for enacting the rule without adequately publicizing it and without working hard enough to provide the certification programs. But pressure from Congress and the industry--along with natural disasters in states such as Tennessee, which made it virtually impossible to get training--ultimately prompted the EPA's decision to change the certification deadline.
The latest Q&A documents appears to represent a bid by the agency to make certain people understand that it was only the certification deadline that was changed. For instance, the first answer on the document declares:
"This announcement does not change the requirement that all contractors take steps to protect children and families from the dangers of lead poisoning by becoming certified and following the work practice standards and the associated recordkeeping requirements. As of April 22, all contractors have been required to be certified and follow the work practice standards described on EPA's website. The effect of the June 18 memorandum only provides firms more time to apply for and obtain certification as a lead-based paint renovation firm before active enforcement of the firm certification requirements begins. EPA is also providing individual workers additional time to enroll in and take the required training course to become certified lead-based paint renovators before active enforcement of the individual renovator training requirements begins. EPA will use its enforcement authority to ensure compliance by enforcing work practice standards and their associated recordkeeping requirements against all renovators and firms."
The EPA recomends that renovators who have not been able to complete the training requirements are advised to review EPA's model training materials available at www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/training.htm. It also noted that additional information on lead-safe work practices can be found at www.epa.gov/lead or from the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).
"All renovation firms, even those not yet certified under the RRP rule, are also reminded of their continuing obligations to comply with Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule's pre-renovation information distribution requirements," the EPA added. Those rules require that before firms begin each renovation on pre-1978 housing or child-occupied facilities and to comply with the associated recordkeeping requirements.
"EPA is not stopping its enforcement against any renovation firms and individual renovators who do not comply with requirements of work practice standards and associated recordkeeping requirements," the agency continued. "However, EPA is providing additional time for renovation firms and workers to obtain the necessary training and certifications before enforcement of the firm certification and individual renovator requirements begins." For renovation firms, EPA will not take enforcement action for violations of the RRP rule's firm certification requirement until Oct. 1, while for individual renovators, EPA said it "will not enforce against individual renovation workers for failure to be trained if the person has applied to enroll in, or has enrolled in, by not later than Sept. 30, 2010, a certified renovator class to train contractors in practices necessary for compliance with the final rules. Individual renovators must complete the training by Dec. 31, 2010."
One section of the Q&A brought up and then knocked down the notion that the June 18 memo gives an unfair advantage to those companies that have yet to get certification. "To the contrary, firms that are already certified can benefit by continuing to advertise that they are certified and may continue to use EPA's program logo during this interim period," EPA said. "The agency also recognizes the challenges some are facing in obtaining training in a timely fashion and is providing additional time to individual renovators to enroll in and take the required training courses before the agency actively enforces the individual renovator requirements. EPA is committed to encouraging additional training opportunities in every state to meet this demand for classes."