EPA Files First Lead Work Rule Violation Case

May 17, 2011

A Rockland, Maine, renovator is facing penalties for allegedly violating lead safe work practice requirements under the Environmental Protection Agency's Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. The agency reports it is the first time such a case has been filed since the regulations, designed to protect children from exposure to lead-based paint during painting and other renovation activities, went into effect in April 2010.

According to information gathered by inspectors from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and EPA, two workers employed by Colin Wentworth of Rockland failed to contain dust and debris generated by lead paint removal activities during a repainting project in October 2010. Although Mr. Wentworth had completed the eight-hour course required by the RRP rule, he did not provide the required training or supervision to his employees to ensure that they followed the required work practices prior to their use of high-speed dust-generating power tools to remove lead paint from the building, the EPA states. Wentworth also failed to take steps to obtain the mandatory lead-safe certification for his firm, it is noted.

 A scene from the anonomously-posted YouTube video that tipped off regulators in the Maine case.

The violations were brought to EPA’s attention via an anonymous tip linking to a video of the violations, posted on YouTube and taken in October 2010, the agency reports. The video documented workers using power equipment to remove lead paint from an exterior wall of a residential building without using any containment for lead-containing dust and debris. At least six children, one of whom was under six years old, lived in the four-unit building at the time of the project, EPA states.

“In New England we have a high proportion of older houses where lead paint can still be present. It is critically important that all tradespeople understand and follow the RRP requirements so that during renovations, children are not exposed to lead and face serious, life-long health consequences,” says Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Many renovation firms have done the right thing by becoming certified, sending their employees to training and following the appropriate, health-protective work practices. Enforcement of these rules is important to protecting children and the business interests of those contractors who are following the rules.”

EPA’s investigation found that Wentworth failed to: obtain required certification as a renovation firm from EPA; post warning signs in the work area; cover the ground in the work area with plastic sheeting to collect falling lead paint debris; contain waste from the renovation activities to prevent releases of dust and debris before the waste is removed from the work area for storage or disposal; prohibit use of machines that remove lead-based paint through high-speed operation without HEPA exhaust controls; and establish and maintain records necessary to demonstrate compliance with the RRP rule, it reports.

According to the Bangor Daily News, Wentworth faces fines of at least $150,000 in fines from the federal agency.