Changes to the Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced earlier this month have drawn mixed reviews. Among the organizations weighing in on the controversial moves are the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) and the National Association of Home Buildings (NAHB) with representatives from both organizations providing Green Building Insider extensive reactions via exclusive interviews. NCHH's take on EPA's actions are included in this week's edition of Construction Advisor Todaywhile NAHB's response will be featured next week.
The lead rule applies to homes built before 1978 and requires renovator training and certification, following lead-safe work practices, containing and cleaning dust, and record keeping.
“Children’s health advocates are disheartened that EPA chose not to strengthen the rule and better protect kids by requiring clearance dust testing after renovation work,” NCHH Executive Director Rebecca Morley said. “Nonetheless, our priority now is to ensure compliance with this important rule so that we can curtail the needless suffering for over a million U.S. children from this preventable disease.”
Among the changes that EPA announced are the following:
- Renovators must build a containment wall -- a barrier consisting of plastic sheeting or other impermeable material over scaffolding or a rigid frame -- to enclose an exterior work space and prevent the spread of lead dust outside of the area.
- Uncertified workers should be trained by certified renovators in lead-safe work practices.
- Certified renovators should ensure their workers maintain containment and do not spread dust or debris.
- States may charge higher penalties for non-compliance with the rule.
Morley called for EPA to step up its compliance and enforcement efforts. “Time’s up -- it’s been over two years since EPA published this rule. Contractors simply can no longer feign ignorance of the rule’s requirements.”
NCHH argued that training has been offered widely in all 50 states, and 687,000 renovators have been trained. “The time has come for EPA, states, and building code officials to crack down on contractors who have not applied for certification and especially those not following the rule.”
NCHH recommended that the following steps be taken:
- Homeowners contracting for painting or renovation work should ask contractors to show proof of their lead-safe status. This includes both a renovator and a firm certification.
- EPA should increase consumer outreach to educate homeowners and increase enforcement to crack down on contractors that are not adhering to the law.
- Homeowners and rental property owners should require clearance testing at the end of any renovation project that stirs up dust in a pre-1978 home.
NCHH Official Offers More Details in a GBI Interview
In an email interview with GBI, NCHH Policy Director Jane Malone provided the following additional information about her organization’s reaction to EPA’s announcement:
GBI: NAHB claims that requiring clearance dust testing after renovation work would be too costly of a burden to its members. What is your reaction to that argument? What statistics, if any, can you provide regarding the expected cost burden to industry as a result of this proposed change?
Malone: EPA’s proposal requires testing after high-dust renovation projects only -- not all projects. Only the work area would have to be tested at the conclusion of a renovation project, not the entire property. Since the proposed rule does not require testing by a third party consultant -- instead, allowing a renovator trained in sampling to collect clearance dust samples to perform the testing -- it is fair to just consider the costs of sampling and obtaining lab analysis when pricing clearance dust testing, which total $100.
The cost of finishing the cleanup is not a clearance test cost. Since the premise of the renovation rule is that following the work practices will leave no lead hazards behind, and (1) the rule requires that the firm ‘clean the work area until no dust, debris or residue remains,’ and (2) the rule requires that the renovator ‘perform a visual inspection to determine whether dust, debris, or residue is still present’ and (3) ‘if dust, debris or residue is present, these conditions must be removed by re-cleaning and another visual inspection must be performed,’ clearance is merely confirming the effectiveness of these three sets of actions. If dust still remains, these standards have not been met, and more work would be needed, but any additional cost for finishing the cleanup is not a testing cost.
GBI: Your organization has stated that its priority now is to ensure compliance with the rule. What specific steps will your organization be taking to help ensure compliance with the rule?
Malone: Through our continued advocacy and partnership with the Obama administration (including EPA), Congress, local and state agencies such as health departments and code agencies, lead-based-paint professionals, renovation professionals, training providers, and lead-poisoning-prevention advocates, NCHH will continue to push for full implementation across the U.S. Advocacy for enforcement, support for code officials interested in reinforcing RRP, guidance for states willing to run the program, partnership with community-based organizations, outreach to increase awareness and training delivery are all key strategies.
GBI: What is the expected timetable for EPA to finalize its planned changes?
Malone: The rule is to take effect around the end of September -- 60 days after the date of publication in theFederal Register. There are no more notices or proposals since this is a final rule.
GBI: NCCH stated that the ‘time has come for EPA, states, and building-code officials to crack down on contractors who have not applied for certification and especially those not following the rule.’ What statistics, if any, can you provide regarding the number of contractors who are not following the rule?
Malone: We have collected no data but anecdotal reports from training providers, contractors, and public health and housing practitioners indicate gaps in compliance in many parts of the U.S.
GBI: What penalties are there for non-compliance with the rule?
Malone: [It is] $37,500 per violation. For information on the fines, see:
GBI: How effective would it be to raise these potential penalties?
Malone: Increasing the dollar amount of fines is not yet warranted since, with only one enforcement case to date, there is no supporting data.