Lowe’s LRRP Fine Underscores EPA Challenge to Replacement Window Industry
By now, most people with interests in the remodeling industry, and the replacement window business in particular, have heard about the $500,000 fine imposed on Lowe’s Home Centers by the Environmental Protection Agency for violations of the job practices and record-keeping provisions of the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule.
- Many contractors are likely to avoid working on pre-1978 homes since jobs may be less profitable due to RRP compliance costs. The required eight-hour contractor training class, which the EPA says costs about $200 per worker, followed by the EPA registration fee of $300 each, add significant expenses for remodelers to bear in a difficult economy. There is also the cost of lead-test kits, supplies to isolate the work area (indoors and out), replacement respirator cartridges, HEPA vacuum filters and pollution insurance, not to mention lost work days allocated to training. For window replacement, estimates of the additional costs have ranged between $120 and $200 per window.
- EPA-approved test kits must be employed to determine whether leadbased paint is present. In addition to the cost, the lack of a test kit meeting EPA’s own standard for accuracy is forcing companies to follow expensive procedures even when there may be no need to do so. The current test kits have a 30 percent false-positive test rate, finding unsafe levels where they do not exist.
- The added costs of compliance will of course be passed onto homeowners wherever possible, making some projects cost-prohibitive. It could also put a damper on efforts to improve building energy efficiency—a particularly germane consideration for pre-1978 structures. This could cause homeowners to postpone the work or bypass the rules by taking it on as a DIY project or by employing a noncertified contractor, all of which tend to subvert the health goals of the RRP rules. Also, as some have observed, homeowners are likely to balk at going on record as harboring lead, a fact they will have to disclose upon future sale of the residence.