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Maine Weighs RRP Rule Expansion

Thursday, March 30, 2017

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A Maine lawmaker has moved to expand the state's lead renovation safety rules because of the region's high lead poisoning rates and what he believes to be lax enforcement from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The bill, LD 441, "An Act To Require Certification under the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule," was introduced by state Sen. Nathan Libby (D-Lewiston) with the hope of enforcing contractors working on buildings pre-1978 to be trained and certified in lead-safe removal methods. It is currently sitting in the state's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development committe after a public hearing earlier this month.

Why is this Necessary?

From 2009-14, more than 20 percent of children in Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn area were diagnosed with lead poisoning.

“It is shameful that even though the EPA began banning lead paint from widespread commercial use nearly 40 years ago, Maine children continue to be poisoned by lead,” said Libby. “It is about time we bring state resources to bear in enforcing safe lead abatement and lead handling.”

© iStock.com / XiFotos

Libby said in his testimony that his requirement is necessary because the EPA isn’t enforcing its requirement. According to the latest U.S. Census numbers, the list of Maine renovator firms certified to perform lead-safe work has 637 names. There are 4,700 construction firms in the state, meaning those currently certified by the EPA come in at 15 percent.

The bill would require contractors who are engaged in painting, renovation, remodeling, maintenance or repair of a pre-1978 building have someone on-site who is certified under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting rule. It would also require anyone performing maintenance on a multi-unit building where the owner receives public money (such as a housing subsidy) to have this certification.

While this is legislation’s wording is close to that of the federal RRP rule, the EPA program explicitly covers work that “disturbs lead-based paint,” while Libby’s proposed bill encompasses all work.

Data suggests that the EPA isn’t enforcing its requirement in the region. According to the latest U.S. Census numbers, the list of Maine renovator firms certified to perform lead-safe work has 637 names. There are 4,700 construction firms in the state, meaning those currently certified by the EPA come in at 15 percent.

EPA

From 2009-14, more than 20 percent of children in Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn area were diagnosed with lead poisoning.

“I feel it is incumbent on us to bring state resources to bear in enforcing safe lead abatement and lead paint handling,” Libby wrote in his testimony.

Reaction Mixed

The public hearing in early March, however, brought both supporters and strong opposition, including that from the EPA.

The agency’s statement said they oppose the legislation because it would duplicate its efforts.

Efforts that EPA New England spokesperson Dave Deegan pointed out had been stepped up in 2016.

“EPA did send pre-inspection mailings to approximately 400 regulated entities (including plumbers with emphasis on lead in drinking water); EPA completed dozens of inspections to determine compliance with both RRP and Disclosure Rule requirements; and EPA is currently performing appropriate follow up actions on that work, results of which may be announced in the future,” Deegan wrote. “EPA takes our responsibility very seriously to help protect children and the public from lead paint hazards.”

Ben+Sam, CC-BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr Commons

The public hearing in early March, however, brought both supporters and strong opposition, including that from the EPA.

Others opposed the broadness of the bill and said that its sweeping nature would discourage landlords from doing routine checks.

“And the other thing is, if a second-floor apartment has a pipe burst and water is pouring down into the first-floor apartment, you can’t have a plumber fix that until you get somebody who’s EPA-certified there to engage in that repair,” said Daniel Bernier, a lawyer at the hearing who represents the Central Main Apartment Owners Association.

The Sun Journal reported that state experts estimate there are 276,574 housing units in Maine that are contaminated with lead. Those numbers combined with the lack of enforcement had Libby requesting more time after the hearing.

“I’m going to ask the committee for some more time to work with opponents, advocates and committee members, and ask them not to vote this out” yet, Libby said. “I don’t want a party-line vote, I want to take time to build support from committee members.”

   

Tagged categories: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Laws and litigation; Lead; Lead paint abatement; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); Paint

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