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Mr. Robert Lamoureux,

I serve on a Board of Directors of our HOA. We have one unit that suffered a leak in the ceiling and damaged approximately 90 sq.ft. of drywall. We called different contractors to provide bids and one said that due to new EPA regulations, there are many additional steps required. Because of this, his bid is almost double anyone else’s. Would you please explain this new law?

Thank you,
Brian D.

Hi Brian,

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) issued rules of safe practices while working with lead painted surfaces in April 2008. In April 2010, all contractors were required to be certified – both Firm Certified and RRP Certified. Firm Certification for the company license, RRP or Renovation, Repair and Painting Certified for staff.

You are only affected by these conditions if your structure – home, day care center or school was built in 1978 or before. Lead paint began to phase out during the mid 1970’s and was banned December 31, 1977.

Back in the old days, you would go in and buy your paint, and then buy a bucket of fine lead dust separately. After mixing up your paint, you’d reach in and get a handful of the lead and mix that with the paint. Lead makes the paint pop, more colorful and more durable. It is still used by the military and on ship hulls because of it’s strength. But, it’s deadly poisonous. Especially in dust or fume form.

This prompted the EPA to set forth a very through set of containment procedures and practices that must be followed whenever disturbing a pre-1978 painted surface.

These procedures include heavy duty plastic in the work area to walk on; sticky pads to step on when exiting the containment area; sealing the windows, doors, air vents and handlers; hepa vacuums for tools and personnel; wrapping each piece of debris, like drywall pieces, into a plastic covered package to be placed in locked dumpster or receptacle. If, by the way, the debris weight totals 220 pounds or more, then it is considered hazardous waste and the contractor owns it forever. This means after it is disposed of, the contractor can be contacted 30 years later and be told that his waste needs to be moved at “x” amount of dollars per pound.

There are many additional steps necessary for working with lead paint. If a contractor happens to miss one of those steps, like handing a pamphlet to one of the affected homeowners, they can be fined $37,500.00. Not only that, but the California laws are different than the national laws and the EPA laws are not exactly the same as the HUD – Housing and Urban Development laws. As Firm and RRP certified, we are required to know these differences.

This is a tremendous amount of additional expense and work required to adhere to these laws. Basically, an RRP needs to be on site for the set up and then the clean up – both steps, as well as the procedures for performing the work, are all very labor intensive. More steps and manpower translates into additional costs passed onto the HOA or homeowner.

Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 30 years experience as a commercial general, electrical and plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Your Home Improvements” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made.

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