LRRP: Still Alive and Well

Record keeping, training and continuing education are key to complying with the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule
Laurie Cowin
June 14, 2019
COLUMN : In the Dealer's Corner | Management

What to Do if the EPA Walks Through the Door

Seaway provides the following tips to its dealer base to help them manage potential run-ins with the EPA.

  • Maintain and be able to produce current, correct and complete documentation.
  • Do not engage in small talk; keep the visit strictly business since the EPA’s primary goal in visiting is to find prosecutable violations.
  • Contact the company’s designated point person for such visits so that they can come meet with the EPA agent. 
  • Once the EPA agent has made their request for information, establish a plan for how and when to get the information to them. Do not show them any files or documentation without first consulting legal counsel.
  • Contact legal counsel immediately.

Goodrich encourages companies to take responsibility and visit the EPA website to verify if their registration is current. Potentially hefty fines are high among the reasons to get an attorney involved quickly; they might be able to work through the legal processes to get fines reduced to what a company is able to pay so as not to put them out of business.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s, epa.gov, 2008 Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule produced tidal waves across the industry when it was introduced. Although few could dispute the rule’s positive intent to protect children and other “at risk” individuals from lead exposure, following the rule to the letter of the law required hefty investments in training and equipment. To try to curb those costs, some companies opted not to get certified and hoped to not get caught while other companies declined altogether to work on pre-1978 homes.

Despite the rule’s newness having worn off, the EPA is still very much enforcing it and companies need to stay up to date on certifications, which last five years, take steps on each job to remain in compliance, and be able to prove they are doing so. “The RRP rule is alive and well,” asserts Jana Goodrich, president and CEO of Seaway Manufacturing, seawaymfg.com. “Fines and citations are still being assessed routinely; we’re just not hearing about them as often. The fines are huge; it can be devastating.”

In fact, the EPA issued 104 violations in 2018 around lead-based paint, including RRP and abatement. Sixty-four of those fines were for less than $10,000, but the list also included some sizable numbers specific to RRP violations. Prior to an extensive case involving the New York City Public Housing Authority—a proposed settlement for which would require New York City to provide at least $1.2 billion to address infrastructure issues—the largest RRP fine issued was a $500,000 penalty in 2014 against national retailer Lowe’s for record keeping and work practice violations. (Editor’s note: Visit windowanddoor.com/JuneJuly2019 for additional resources on LRRP and a closer look at recent fines.)

LRRP Rule: Real Life Example

How one dealer handles documentation, testing and compliance

Jim Lett, president of A.B.E. Doors & Windows, says one of the most important things a company can do in terms of the 2008 Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule is to maintain proper records.

For A.B.E., the process begins with the sales staff testing for lead in pre-1978 homes with an EPA-approved kit and completing a form with their certification number, customer information, rooms they tested in, the test number and the results. The sales staff also gives the customer a copy of the EPA’s Renovate Right pamphlet and gets a signed confirmation from the customer they received it.

If the home tests positive for lead, the technicians then follow checklists to verify they do such tasks as post warning signs, handle waste properly, set up plastic barriers, avoid the threat of dust and perform post-renovation cleaning. Technicians also keep lists of any materials they use to remain in lead-safe compliance, including caution tape, plastic, garbage bags and cleaning wipes.

 

Upon job completion, the office staff processes and scans all of that paperwork and shares a copy with the customer. A.B.E. also keeps all of its lead-safe jobs in their own electronic folders, organized by year, so that if the EPA should ever inquire about A.B.E.’s lead rule adherence the company can easily access all of the documentation.

Record keeping

Jim Lett, president of A.B.E. Doors & Windows, says one of the most important things a company can do is to maintain proper records. “You need to embrace it as a whole company from the office staff to the sales staff to the field technicians,” says A.B.E.’s office manager, Shannon Seng, who maintains the company’s records. 

Lett compares the EPA and lead compliance to the IRS and tax compliance. “If you’re paying your taxes all along, you don’t really have a fear but you still don’t want the IRS to come knocking,” he says. “It’s the same thing [with the EPA]. You hope you’re doing things right and your record keeping is correct.” 

In addition to record keeping, Goodrich recommends installers keep necessary paperwork readily available on jobsites. She also recommends that the onsite supervisor, if not the entire team, obtain official certification. “Even if a company doesn’t certify everybody, it’s still responsible for providing training, and they have to show they’ve done that to everybody who is working on the jobsite,” she says. (Editor’s note: Visit windowanddoor.com/JuneJuly2019 for a “day in the life” perspective of how Lett and his team walk through the process.) 

 

Training and education

Education around lead encompasses two major demographics: the homeowner and the dealers. Lett says the real estate market does a great deal to educate homeowners about lead, especially with the required lead disclosures when buying and selling.

Manufacturers can concentrate on educating their dealer base and helping each one to achieve and maintain certification. Goodrich says Seaway arranged for training and certification for a large part of its dealer base and also shares occasional reminders and other education campaigns around LRRP.

Lett also advises companies that want to become certified to contact a training company that will teach the dos and don’ts around adherence, again drawing a comparison with the IRS. “Get yourself and your personnel trained on it,” he says. “You don’t know every single rule. I go back to the IRS: Do you know every rule and regulation? No. But you do your best to make sure your taxes are paid. If you take the training class, they teach you the dos and don’ts and what kind of protective equipment you need. You use best practices.” Although those certified might not know every nuance of the rule, Lett says, “I think if you’re doing your best, it gives a lot of credit.” 

2018 RRP Settlements

The EPA issued 104 violations in 2018 around lead-based paint, including RRP and abatement. Sixty-four of those fines were for less than $10,000, but the list also included some sizable numbers specific to RRP violations:

  • Magnolia Waco Properties LLC, dba Magnolia Homes of the “Fixer Upper” reality television show settled alleged RRP violations that were broadcast on the show. Magnolia agreed to pay $40,000 and spend $160,000 to abate lead-based paint hazards in homes in Waco, Texas.
  • Baxter Construction in New Jersey paid $95,883 for violations including performing renovations without proper certification at five properties, failure to keep records of renovation compliance, failure to assign a certified renovator, failure to provide property owners with the EPA-approved Lead Hazard pamphlet and failure to post lead hazard signs.
  • William C. Rott & Sons in New York paid a $95,000 penalty for violations including performing renovations without proper certification at nine properties, failure to keep records of renovation compliance, failure to assign a certified renovator and failure to provide three property owners with the Renovate Right pamphlet.
  • Advanced Window Inc. in Maryland faced $67,180 in penalties for failing to provide the owner and building occupants with an EPA-approved lead hazard pamphlet, failure to post warning signs and failure to retain proper records.
  • Renovation Realty in California paid $41,633 after an EPA inspection found that in 2014 and 2015 the company performed renovation work at six homes without being EPA-certified. The company also failed to keep records and did not ensure a certified renovator was involved, according to EPA.
  • Bitner Brothers Construction Co. Inc. in Pennsylvania was sentenced to a $10,000 fine, two-year probation period and $125 special assessment fee for violating lead-safe practices while working inside dwellings that had families with small children present.

The New York City Public Housing Authority is settling lead-based paint and housing violations under a complaint the United States of America filed and proposed consent decree, which is still subject to a public comment period and court approval. NYCHA admitted and accepted responsibility for violating federal lead-based paint requirements, including violation of RRP, as well as various violations of housing standards. The proposed settlement would require New York City to provide at least $1.2 billion to address infrastructure issues, according to an EPA news release.

Prior to the New York City case, the largest RRP fine issued was a $500,000 penalty in 2014 against national retailer Lowe’s for record keeping and work practice violations.

Laurie Cowin is senior editor of Window & Door. Contact her at lcowin@glass.org.