NEW HAVEN, CONN. -- A focused effort by the US Environmental Protection Agency to combat childhood lead poisoning targeted the New Haven area and resulted in significant improvements in compliance with federal lead-paint laws and increased awareness of the dangers of lead paint.
With strong support from local and state public health agencies, this novel team effort involved concentrated federal inspections, trainings, outreach and enforcement in one area during the summer of 2014. Due to its success, this focused initiative was repeated in Nashua, N.H. this past spring and will likely be replicated in other communities in New England and elsewhere burdened by high rates of childhood lead poisoning.
“Our targeted work to reduce the threat of lead poisoning in New Haven will help protect the public, and children in particular,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “We already see evidence of increased compliance, and we hope to see better-educated parents and homeowners demanding safer home renovations for their families.”
Over a several week period during the time of year when home renovation projects often occur, EPA conducted 49 inspections to assess whether contractors were complying with the lead paint “Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.” This rule requires workers to be certified, trained and to use safe work practices geared at minimizing dust when performing renovations in older homes that contain lead paint. In addition, EPA also conducted 16 inspections to be sure landlords follow the federal Lead Disclosure Rule that lets tenants know about lead paint in their units. Both rules stem from the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.
Compliance is often spotty with these renovation requirements because of the large number and variety of companies engaged in this type of work. As a result of the initiative, many more renovation firms are applying for and receiving certification in the New Haven area. Increased compliance will help ensure that companies perform work in the appropriate manner, and will help raise awareness among the public of its right to information about the presence of lead and reduce the public’s exposure to this harmful substance.
In addition to the 65 total inspections in the New Haven area, 40 companies applied to formally become certified firms and EPA finalized enforcement actions against six companies that were in violation of the renovation rule. All six companies paid fines and have come into compliance with the standards.
EPA used a variety of means to publicize its effort, including social media, traditional press, fact sheets and meetings. In launching the initiative, EPA sent letters to about 200 home renovation and painting contractors in and around New Haven. The letter notified the contractors that EPA would inspect a number of them in June 2014 and invited them to an information session. It also offered an expedited settlement with a reduced penalty for a single violation of the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. One company, Tim Jones New Look Remodeling of North Haven, took this offer, paid a small $1,000 fine and came into full compliance with the rule by becoming a certified firm.
These enforcement actions should help deter contractors from violating the rule and level the playing field for companies that are already complying but are being undercut by non-compliant competitors. The five other enforcement actions concluded as part of this New Haven initiative include the following:
The Whalley Glass Company, a window replacement firm in New Haven, paid $31,286 to settle claims of 12 violations stemming from four renovation projects done between 2012 and 2014 in Madison, New Haven, and West Haven. The alleged violations included performing renovations without getter proper certification, without using certified workers, without providing lead hazard information to the owners, and without retaining records showing it complied with the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.
JPAA Chen Services of New Haven paid $4,700 and will complete an environmental project worth $42,300 to settle claims it failed to disclose whether it knew of any lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards at properties it rents out in New Haven. The environmental project will involve the removal and replacement of lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards, followed by lead clearance testing. Chen will address windows, trim and a porch, among other components, at housing it owns. As a result, future tenants of these units will have reduced chances of exposure to lead.
Whitney Management and Maintenance Co. of Hamden, a property management company, paid $10,285 to settle claims it violated the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. Whitney was charged with four violations in performing a 2014 renovation project in East Haven.
DiNuzzo Painting of Wallingford, a home renovation and painting company, paid $1,480 to settle claims of three violations of the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule while the company was painting a house in New Haven. This settlement was approved as part of a pilot program that authorizes reduced penalties for small business, those with annual sales under $300,000.
Hatillo LLC of New Haven, a home improvement company, paid $1,290 to resolve claims it violated the Renovation, Repair and Paint Rule at a residential property in New Haven. This settlement was also part of a pilot program allowing for reduced penalties for violating this rule on the part of small businesses.
More information on Lead, and on the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule: http://www2.epa.gov/lead