With lead in them thar walls, get ready to spend

A new rule requires contractors who renovate, repair or paint in residences built before 1978 to be trained in lead-safe work practice by April 22.

Anyone receiving compensation for such work that disturbs painted surfaces is subject to the new Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) of the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which says it on target to implement the measure. Says Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg:

“This rule strengthens EPA’s goal to protect children from exposure to lead-based paint. To be certified a contractor needs to take a simple one-day course. Beginning April 22, 2010, consumers should ask for proof of certification before work begins.”

The rule requires contractors to become trained and certified as lead-safe by EPA. Individuals take an eight-hour training course offered by private training providers to become a certified renovator. The certification is valid for five years.

No big deal, you say.  Well, it is–a fine of up to $37,500 for contractors without the certification, and the course also costs a couple of hundred dollars for each employee.

No big deal, you say.  Wrong again!

Contractor Vince Butler, president of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, told the Washington Post that the extra time and effort required for protecting, cleaning and testing construction areas in pre-1978 homes will add 5 percent to 30 percent in fees on small renovation jobs.

The EPA procedures under the rule call for applying protective plastic sheeting to floors and other surfaces and extending the sheets a minimum of six feet in all directions from the location where the existing paint will be disturbed.

Affected areas must be misted with water to minimize dust, and components must be pulled apart instead of pounded or hammered to prevent the spread of debris. Power sanders and grinders must be fitted with HEPA vacuum attachments to capture dust, and heat guns must be set below 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Workers are advised to wear respirators and disposable suits, gloves and shoe covers.In addition to ensuring that EPA-approved procedures are followed, certified renovators must check to see whether dust, debris or residue is present after the job is done.

Then they are required to wipe disposable cleaning cloths, both wet and dry, over floors, countertops, windowsills and other surfaces and compare the cloths with a card distributed by the EPA. If the cloths match or are lighter than the color of the card, they indicate that the surfaces are considered adequately cleaned of dust, which could contain lead.

As part of the rule, contractors are required to keep records of a renovation project for three years to prove that their work was performed according to EPA-approved methods, whether in New York or North Dakota.

The agency published the rule a long time ago, and you can be sure it will be taking some heat–maybe well in excess of 1,100 degrees when the public wakes up to the cost of compliance.

Meantime, you can be sure it will cost you more to get the lead out of your paints.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

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