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Lead Paint Work Draws RRP Fines

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

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Twelve California renovation contractors recently settled tens of thousands of dollars in fines for failing to abide by federal lead-based paint rules.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday (Jan. 19) that the enforcement actions, which resulted in settlements totalling more than $80,000, involved renovation projects at schools and homes throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Seeking School Work

Eleven violations involved firms seeking construction work at San Francisco Unified School District elementary schools without obtaining EPA certification to perform such renovations involving lead-based paint, the federal agency announced.

San Francisco Unified School District
Ciphers / CC By SA 3.0 via Wikipedia

Most of the cases involved work for elementary schools within the San Francisco Unified School District. A district administrative building is shown above.

Those settlements, totaling $42,000, were filed between March and October 2016. The school district now requires companies to be EPA-certified to bid on any similar future school projects.

“Lead paint is one of the most common sources of lead poisoning in children,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA's acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “With its new policy, San Francisco Unified sets a strong example of how a school district can protect students from lead dust resulting from renovation.”

EPA said it required the firms to become properly certified and pay the following penalties:

  • Zolman Construction and Development Inc.: $9,000
  • Transworld Construction Inc.: $8,000
  • Rodan Builders Inc.: $7,000
  • Arntz Builders Inc.: $5,000
  • Jeff Luchetti Construction, Inc.: $3,000
  • Roebbelen Contracting, Inc.: $3,000
  • Pinguelo Construction, Inc.: $2,000
  • Rainbow Waterproofing and Restoration Co.: $2,000
  • Vila Construction Co.: $1,000
  • S.J. Amoroso Construction Co. Inc.: $1,000
  • Seven Island Painting Inc.: $1,000

Residential Fine

The agency also reached a $38,990 settlement with Best Value Home Improvements, an Oakland-based general contractor.

Renovate Right
EPA

Lead exposure can cause a range of adverse health effects, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing, according to the EPA.

An EPA inspection found that, in working on four residential properties in Alameda, Millbrae, Oakland, and Piedmont between 2013 and 2014, the contractor failed to:

  • Become certified by EPA to perform residential work;
  • Keep complete records documenting whether the work followed lead-safe practices; and
  • Provide clients with the required federal “Renovate Right” brochure, which offers information about lead safety during renovation work.

Disturbing Lead Paint

Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips, according to the agency.

When companies fail to follow lead-safe practices, the resulting lead dust and chips can contaminate surrounding surfaces. Exposure to such contamination through hand-to-mouth contact or breathing can result in lead poisoning for children, families and construction workers.

Though harmful at any age, lead exposure is determined to be most dangerous to children, the EPA notes. Children’s growing bodies absorb more lead, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to its damaging effects. Lead exposure can cause behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and diminished IQ.

The Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule was created to protect the public from lead-based paint hazards that occur during repair or remodeling activities in homes and child-occupied facilities, such as schools, that were built before 1978. The rule requires that individuals performing renovations are properly trained and certified, provide lead hazard information, and follow specific lead-safe work practices during renovations.

   

Tagged categories: Contractors; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Government; Health and safety; Lead; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); Painters; Rehabilitation/Repair; Renovation; Repair materials

Comment from Fred Salome, (1/24/2017, 5:42 PM)

The risk of lead poisoning from poorly executed renovation works is well established and the damage to health from lead poisoning has been known for a long time. Strict enforcement of regulations governing renovation works is the only way to ensure both owners and contractors meet their obligations to the wider community.


Comment from Jesse Melton, (1/26/2017, 8:39 AM)

So the institutions entrusted with the safety of a bunch didn't bother to check the credentials of people roaming around the buildings? The school system should be fined for the same amounts as the contractors. Perhaps the schools should pay a higher fine.

I also believe the EPA should be crafting the public statements made by those involved. The school system put those children directly in harms way. School officials shouldn't be given the opportunity to turn their self interested policy failures into resume highlights.

This is also a great example of how the press has taken control of public safety policies and how emotions have no place in safety conversations. The schools in that district have a larger security presence than San Francisco or Oakland airports and have invasive practices that treat the kids worse than Palestinian day laborers in the line for their daily water. While school officials are checking sniper placements and making sure the SRO's have enough elbow length student inspection gloves they're letting unauthorized people onto school property and are perfectly fine with lead dust everywhere. All the rhetoric about violence in schools and the public danger posed by terrorists is actually the most dangerous thing children face today. It's a distraction from very clear and present dangers like lead.


Comment from Andrew Piedl, (1/26/2017, 10:30 AM)

Read the article again.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/26/2017, 12:41 PM)

It would be nice if those putting out bids for school renovation work did check on the bidder's certification status (after all, anyone with a computer and color printer can make a phony one, given some time). It would also be nice if some of these smaller contractors learned about the RRP regulations and then stepped up and got their certifications *before* having to get fined for doing work without one.


Comment from Jesse Melton, (1/27/2017, 8:50 AM)

Five times I've read it. Every fine was to contractors, not the schools. The school has the ultimate responsibility for the safety of those in the schools. Jim's Budget Painting has a responsibility too, yes, but ultimately the school is the final safeguard. If they don't know how or why to control the bid process they've got no business hiring anybody.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/30/2017, 11:06 AM)

Jesse, the way you worded your previous comment, it sounded like you were commenting on the safety of the students I terms of the contractors having a pedophile or terrorist on staff...I believe that is what Andrew was getting at with his comment. I'm not sure how the proof of RRP certification works in the US (I'm in another jurisdiction), but unless there is some form of publically accessible database to confirm a contractor's status, then other than putting in the requirement that the contractor be RRP certified in the bid docs, I'm not sure how much more they could have done. As I said, most safety certificates can be forged well enough to "provide a copy" and get the work.


Comment from Jesse Melton, (1/31/2017, 8:02 AM)

I hadn't thought of that actually happening, but good call! Paedophiles Painting Places Parents Presumed Protected.

The law here provides no consideration for victims of forged documents. Kids in bars and nightclubs get door security, bartenders, owners and other patrons arrested, jailed and publicly shamed by presenting them with false identification. Workers selling age restricted products are liable if someone buys smokes or booze with false ID. Employers have 100% liability for ensuring employees are authorized to work in the US. People in their own homes have the responsibility for ensuring service providers and even police are who they say they are. Yes, the people presenting the false documents are guilty of crimes too, but that means nothing to the people in jail for accepting those documents. The lobby for national ID cards have endless statistics highlighting the issue.

My problem is the uneven application of the law. The school not having the resources to verify someone is authorized to do work in the school isn't the fault of anyone except the school. It certainly isn't a self promotion opportunity for school administration.

From IT contractors to staff the school engages in deeply intrusive identify verification processes and do so in the name of safety. Even though it's incredibly unlikely terrorists, drug dealers, arms dealers or paedophiles are going to seek employment there. Even the kids are viewed with suspicion and the activities of their parents are added to the body of evidence collected by the schools. But paint and drywall people who are very likely to look for work in schools and can truly cause injury are entirely ignored.

It's really easy to poke at OSHA and other safety regulators, so I do it, but I'm very much a proponent of safety. People should not be exposed to life threatening situations in order to not be a drain on society. Nor should people be exposed to dangerous situations as bystanders because people are doing work they aren't qualified to do. But I can't tolerate safety theater and shouldn't have to. We spend copious amounts of money on protecting people from statistical anomalies then relax into orange alert while actual danger is happening and it's crap.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (2/1/2017, 11:12 AM)

Good points, Jesse, but again I have to ask...is there a way for the school to verify the contractor's RRP status? The school / board can require it in the bid docs, the contractor can say "yes, we have it" and produce a document to that effect, but is there a way to actually verify that the contractor legitimately has the RRP qualification? If not, then the school board may have done what was practicable to do in which case it again falls on the contractor. If you're the board and there is no way to verify, then you put RRP certification in your docs, request proof prior to start of work and if the contractor doesn't have it, then you did your due diligence and it's hard to have the regulator come back on you for it. Unfortunately, too many have put the almighty dollar ahead of personal integrity, honesty, pride in workmanship, safety and personal responsibility....it's a sad commentary on society, but it is also the current way it is.


Comment from Jesse Melton, (2/2/2017, 9:15 AM)

But it's not hard for the regulator to come down on someone for not verifying someone's credentials. There's no way for a bartender or clerk selling cigarettes to confirm an ID is valid but if they sell booze or smokes to someone underage they, personally, get fined and can even go to prison if something bad happens. Car dealerships face the same issue with test drives. There's an enormous list of similar situations. The inability to confirm information doesn't mean you aren't responsible for confirming the information is correct.

Yes, that's a stupid and unreasonable liability, but it's nevertheless the law. I realize the bureaucracy in a school administration system is a lot bigger than Joe's Bar, but the national awareness programs in place at venues selling booze and smokes have been very effective in reducing fraudulent sales of those things. National chains all the way down to tiny local joints have developed internal programs that piggyback the big organized campaigns and the results have been positive. Saddling the clerks and owners with stupid and unreasonable responsibilities forced them to protect themselves.

I see no reason why schools shouldn't follow suit. Purpose specific awareness materials and a compliance document for the contractor to sign and submit as part of the bid process seems like low hanging fruit. Something similar for the school officials controlling the contract process and informing them of their personal liability in hiring unqualified contractors. Spreading the responsibility around goes a long way toward reducing the likelihood of people trying to cheat the system.

Laws have to be applied consistently across the board. If the clerk making $7.50/hr can be held responsible for ensuring proof of age documents are valid, even when there's no system in place for them to do that, then the administration officials who are paid 3-4x more than the clerk should also be on the hook for ensuring documents are valid and a contractor is qualified to do the work.


Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (2/4/2017, 10:51 AM)

Everyone involved in planning lead paint removal have a duty and responsibility to ensure work is planned and executed in a safe, healthly and prescribed manner. Regular inspection and auditing coupled with competent supervisors will ensure safe and healthy conditions.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (2/6/2017, 11:43 AM)

But Jesse, you haven't answered my question...is there a way for the public to check / validate someone's RRP certification claim. If not, there is no way for the Board to know. Sure, you can get folks trying to use fake IDs, but the official documents have safety features to assist in validating whether they are real or forgeries (and those working with alcohol are supposed to receive some training in identifying valid vs fake IDs...at least up here). Car dealerships (here) look for certain security features and now take photocopies of driver's licenses as due diligence (and someone taking out a car unqualified gets "uttering false documents" added to their charges). But if the RRP certification has no security features and no way for a 3rd party to verify, then the best you can hope for is that the Owner specifies the contractor must have it and provide a copy. That's the best they can do for due diligence. If they didn't before, it sure sounds like the board is doing that now. Also, I haven't seen it stated anywhere that work was actually performed... "Eleven violations involved firms *SEEKING* (emphasis added) construction work at San Francisco Unified School District elementary schools without obtaining EPA certification to perform such renovations involving lead-based paint."


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