EPA’s Lead Paint Law Frustrates Hardworking Contractors

By Todd Fratzel on Painting and Finishing, Safety

EPA’s Lead Paint Law

Here on our Home Improvement site we’ve been covering the EPA’s new Lead Paint Law closely since early spring when it went into effect. We’ve written lots of articles on the new law, training, fines and cost implications. So far we’ve met very few people that seem excited about the new law and lots of upset contractors and  home owners. So I thought it was only fitting to share with you a recent email that was sent to me. The email comes from a contractor that recently started learning more about the new lead paint law.

As I’ve said many times before I do think we need to protect people from lead paint but this new law is very flawed and needs to be changed quickly. At any rate I think this mans email really sums up how many of us are feeling.

Email From A Contractor

Dear Mr. EPA Man,

Two weeks ago I was at the lumber yard buying supplies and I saw a publication about the EPA RRP Lead Rule. I was not aware of this impending law due to my busy schedule and family responsibilities. Now that I am, I will follow the law and apply for my firm certification and I have scheduled my Certified Renovator Training. I beleive that I must be a totally legit business. I pay my taxes, carry general liability insurance, carry workmen’s compensation for my carpenters, pay my workers matching taxes, have my builder’s license, obtain permits, follow the code, have my state registration and follow safe work practices as required by OSHA.

I am an average hard working contractor and I love what I do. I have a great wife, two wonderful children and do the best I can to be a good father, husband, employer and community man. I must confess it is extremely hard these days since the housing industry has been decimated by the mismanagement of our economy.

With that said, I spent the past week reading the law and the requirements on the EPA sites. I have learned what must be done in order to comply. I see an estimate of $35.00 per job in the EPA wording and I am troubled how such a number was conjured up.

I have listed the things that I will have to do comply with the practices. The costs are no where near what you claim.

  • First the training and certification is 300.00 for my firm and 900.00 for my employees.
  • Second, I see I must purchase materials that will likely cost 600.00 to 700.00 to get started.
  • Third, I see I must be extremely diligent about the documentation and I must keep records for three years. I do not know what this will cost but I know that I must create a new paper work and filing system to make sure everything is correct in case of an audit. My best guess is that the paperwork will add several hours to each project and the office systems will cost several thousand in developing the right system, training my office manager, training my staff and setting up office infrastructure.
  • Fourth, I see that the lead safe practices which I can and will do, will impact productivity.
  • Fifth I see that my subs will have to become certified and I am concerned will they or will I be responsible for them as well.
  • Sixth, I wonder if my insurance will skyrocket. I called my agent and he said there is no insurance coverage for this. Only abatement coverage costing over $6000.00.
  • Seven, I see that enforcement will be by the EPA and building inspectors are not part of the plan.
  • Eight, will I have to compete against dozens of contractors who will fly under the radar and
  • Nine how will I explain this additional cost to a homeowner who has no equity, is fearful of losing their job, and facing huge increases in taxes, health care and energy. Adding up the costs; priceless.

I love my country, my family and my work helping homeowners improve their homes. I have no union to fight for me and yet I see they get preferred status from a government that has forgotten me and the residential construction industry. I don’t want a bail out only a fair level playing field. Our industry is decimated and the more I have looked into this new law I picture thousands of contractors not abiding by these rules due to inadequate funding for enforcement.
So would you please do something for me? I will abide by the law.

Could you at least promise me that you will require all cities and towns to cast a wide net to prevent all illegal contractors from perfoming illegal work? Will you demand that all pre-1978 projects requiring permits also require proof of your firm certification and certified renovator training? Will you deputize building and health inspectors to locally enforce this rule? Will you demand that insurance companies come up with a fairly priced insurance products that will protect us against claims for essentially dust protection and not abatement?

Then at least I can have some confidence that my government is striving to maintain a level playing field and I won’t be the only one doing what is right. I too believe in the spirit of the rule to protect children, pregnant woman, homeowners and employees from lead poisoning.

What concerns me is the timing and the likelihood of no enforcement or insurance causing me to lose my business and not be able to provide for my family. If everyone else has to comply then I will compete on even ground and then may the best company prevail.

From a legal hard working contractor, father, husband, taxpayer, and small business owner who loves helping homeowners improve their homes.

Mark the Coach

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the author of Tool Box Buzz and Today's Green Construction. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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2 Comments

  1. Robert H. says:

    Like the other contractor who responded, I am also a small family owned business. The threat of massive fines for not complying with the rules, which by the way were never made available directly to the people who would have to adhere to them, are just plain un-American. If the EPA was concerned with helping prevent lead related health problems, there are better ways to do it.
    First, a simple mailing to all homes that were built before 1978 that warns the occupants that there is a possibility that there home ‘may’ contain lead. Believe it or not, most parents want their children to be healthy.
    Second, there could be government inspectors trained in lead testing. This service would be free upon request, and would include a recommended method of safely correcting the situation. That way, the homeowner would feel better about doing the work himself if he is skilled enough and if not would be able to select a contractor who is qualified in this area.
    The fact is that many contractors including me are opting out of working on older houses. These older houses typically have many coats of latex paint on top of the lead coat.
    If the EPA was really concerned about the health of pregnant women, they would not allow them to be homeless, standing at intersections holding cardboard signs while breathing car fumes.
    The irony of this law is that it only applies to legitimate contractors, who already use more safety measures to control dust than the typical do-it-yourselfer. The homeowner can sand and grind to his hearts content and blow all of the dust onto his neighbors house and yard and the EPA cares not.

    When FDR created jobs, he put people to work doing something constructive. This law creats a lot of jobs that are nothing more than a police force charged with enforcing unnecessary rules.

    The wave of people being affected by lead crested decades ago.
    Lets work on the lead poisoning in the middle east that is harming our soldiers. You know what I mean.

    By the way, I’m 64 and when I was in the 6th grade, our science teacher would bring a vial of mercury to school for all of us to pass around from hand to hand. None of us died from it.

    “Scientist have announced that saliva causes cancer, but only when swallowed in small amounts over long periods ov time.”

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