Contractors now need training to remove lead paint
A new federal regulation that affects thousands of contractors in the Grand Valley quietly slipped into law late last month.
As of April 22, a lead paint regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that anyone who is paid to renovate a home that was built before 1978 be trained and/or certified to follow lead paint safety practices. Failure to follow the rules could result in a fines of $37,500 per day.
And, contractors say, people can expect to pay higher prices and have workers spend more time on the job as certified companies follow the required steps to get work done.
“Like death and taxes, it’s just something you have to do,” Executive Officer Debbie Rich of the Homebuilders Association of Northwestern Colorado said about the training. “A lot of contractors still haven’t heard about it.”
Although talk of the impending regulation has been bubbling for years, the new law is causing contractors, already hit hard by a lack of work, to jump through yet another hurdle. Or, as others see it, being the first in line to be certified and get the training can be a feather in the cap of businesses vying for bids in a competitive market.
According to the law, anyone working for pay in a home built before 1978 with plans to disturb paint in an area more than 6 square feet inside or more than 20 square feet on the exterior of a home, must be trained or certified. The law applies to anyone working in a home, including painters, plumbers, insulation installers, those installing heating and air-conditioning, and electricians. Certification includes an eight-hour class that can cost upwards of $200 per person. All firms, including landlords and school districts or other entities that run schools where children are present, must gain certification.
Also, at least one certified worker must be on site at a job site. The other employees can either be trained at a class or trained at the job site by a person who is certified.
Certification through the EPA costs $300 and is good for five years.
Classes include information on how to seal up and clean a work site so as not to track and disperse lead paint dust and lead paint chips. All finished jobs must be inspected.
Lead, which is practically invisible, is especially toxic to children and pregnant women. Lead exposure can cause a host of problems in children, such as hearing problems, slowed growth, allergic reactions, attention deficit disorder and brain damage. Lead poisoning causes permanent damages, but its effects do not show until years later.
Paid workers who are not certified or trained should not be completing jobs in homes built before 1978, according to the EPA.
The new safety practices are based upon common-sense measures, and the regulations are being instated so renovators aren’t creating further hazards in homes, said Michelle Reichmuth, regional lead coordinator for the EPA.
While the EPA has the authority to enforce the new law and levy the fines, the government agency is first working on education and looking to see that larger firms are getting certified, she said. Fines probably wouldn’t ensue in the immediate future unless large-scale renovators are blatantly found not to be following the rules.
Certified companies can be found on the EPA’s Web site, but Reichmuth admits with thousands of contractors submitting paperwork each day, the site cannot keep up with the influx, and the lag time is months long. Certified companies will get a sticker with the EPA’s logo to place on the front door of their businesses, and certified workers will have a badge.
In the law’s infancy, it’s best to inquire with contractors whether they are certified under the new law. Officials at the Homebuilders Association of Northwestern Colorado also keep tabs of local contractors who are certified.
Homeowners conducting do-it-yourself projects are not bound by the new law. However, that may mean homeowners should either consider being trained about lead paint handling and cleanup or leave it to the experts. Not having certified work done on an older home could negatively affect the future sale of a home.
“It’s on the contractors’ shoulders,” Reichmuth said. “You want to make sure that you hire a certified firm so that later on, when you transfer property, it doesn’t hinder potential buyers.”
Dennis Wiltgen of Wilco Enterprises LLP is certified. He said dealing with paint in older homes should be treated as a hazardous material. That means encapsulating the work area with plastic and mopping up paint and dust instead of sending it back into the air with a vacuum. Wiltgen primarily has done remodels for the past two years because new home building dropped off with the recession.
He bought a lead test kit to determine whether lead is present in homes. Most of the problem areas are going to be around windows, he said, and right now there’s a big push for homeowners to upgrade to energy-efficient panes.
“A lot of it is not as bad as they make it out,” he said. “It’s when you go to scrape or peel the paint. My advice is when you’re looking at buying a house, have somebody go test it for you.”
Owner Michael Day of SunShine Painting, 202 North Ave., No. 176, is certified to safely remove lead paint. He said clients should expect to pay more for services because pressure washing is no longer allowed, so workers will have to spend more time scraping paint.
A 10-foot plastic covering is now required around the areas to be painted outside, which may kill grass. It will be interesting, too, because another arm of the government, the Occupational Safety Health Administration, does not allow ladders to be placed on plastic. How are workers supposed to scrape paint above arm’s reach, Day wonders.
Plus, some older homes have been painted multiple times with lead-based paint. So, despite following the new EPA guidelines, a company could be held liable if lead is found in the soil during an inspection. That could make accepting painting jobs for older homes less appealing.
“You could inherit other people’s problems,” Day said.
John Burwell Jr., general manager of Peterson Plumbing, 502 Glen Road, is also certified. He worries that other workers who aren’t certified will try to undercut prices of those who are certified. Doing the work in accordance with the new law will inevitably take more time and more materials, costs which will be passed to the homeowner.
“I wouldn’t label it as a hardship, because we want to do what’s right,” he said. “I wouldn’t want someone to put my home or my family in danger by not doing the job right.”