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Lowe’s to Settle RRP Case for $500K

Monday, April 21, 2014

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Lowe’s Home Centers LLC has agreed to pay $500,000—the largest penalty of its kind yet imposed—to settle claims that it violated federal lead-safe renovation rules.

As part of the proposed settlement, the Mooresville, NC-based home-improvement retailer will also implement “a comprehensive, corporate-wide compliance program” at its more than 1,700 U.S. stores to ensure that contractors it hires to perform work minimize lead dust from home renovation activities, according to a joint announcement Thursday (April 17) by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Sending a Message

“[The] settlement sends a clear message to all contractors and the firms they hire: Get lead certified and comply with the law to protect children from exposure to dangerous lead dust,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Lowe's settles with EPA
Lowe's Home Centers LLC

EPA says Lowe's Home Centers violated the federal Lead Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule by not ensuring that third-party renovators it hired for customer projects were properly certified and complied with the rule.

“Lowe’s is taking responsibility for the actions of the firms it hires, and EPA expects other contractors to do the same.”

The proposed settlement must be approved by the trial court.

Renovation Violations at 12 Locations

The EPA says the home-improvement retailer violated the Lead Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule’s recordkeeping and work practice standards at private homes renovated by Lowe’s contractors.

The claims against Lowe’s Home Centers stem from an inspection of records from projects performed by renovators working under contract for Lowe’s stores in:

  • Alton, IL;
  • Kent, OH;
  • Trotwood, OH;
  • Bedford, NH;
  • Southington, CT;
  • Rochester, NY;
  • Savannah, TN;
  • Lebanon, TN;
  • Boise, ID;
  • Idaho Falls, ID;
  • Nampa, ID; and
  • Muldoon, AR.

The civil complaint alleged that Lowe’s failed to provide documentation showing that specific contractors had been certified by EPA; had been properly trained; had used lead-safe work practices; or had correctly used EPA-approved lead test kits at renovation sites.

Lowe's also failed to ensure that work areas had been properly contained and cleaned during renovations at three homes, EPA said.

EPA’s investigation was prompted by tips and complaints from the public, the joint announcement said.

Corporate-wide Program

In addition to the $500,000 penalty, Lowe’s must implement a comprehensive compliance program to ensure that contractors it hires to perform work for its customers comply with the RRP Rule during renovations of any child-occupied facilities, such as day-care centers and pre-schools, and any housing that was built before 1978.

Lowe's Home Centers
Lowe's Home Centers LLC

Lowe's is the second-largest home-improvement retailer in the world, following The Home Depot Inc.

For these projects, Lowe’s must contract only with EPA-certified renovators, ensure they maintain certification, and ensure that they use lead-safe work-practice checklists during renovations, EPA said.

In addition, Lowe’s must suspend anyone who is not operating in compliance with the rule, investigate all reports of potential noncompliance, and ensure that any violations are corrected, according to the EPA.

“This action, the first of its kind to address lead safe work practices on a system-wide basis, will help prevent children’s exposure to lead in communities across the nation by raising home improvement contractors’ awareness of EPA’s lead safety regulations and contributing to a culture of compliance," said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Company Response

A spokeswoman from Lowe’s said the company has had an “aggressive lead-based paint renovation compliance program” in place since the rule took effect in 2010.

“Lowe’s hires thousands of independent, third-party contractors, and the EPA identified only a few who failed to meet certain recordkeeping or work practice requirements regarding lead-based paint,” according to Amanda Manna, Lowe’s corporate public relations manager.

There have “never been any reports of lead-based paint health issues associated with any projects completed by Lowe’s contractors,” she added.

“We have cooperated with the EPA and have resolved all issues alleged by the EPA,” Manna said.

The RRP Rule

The RRP Rule, which went into effect in April 2010, mandates lead-safe certification and work practices for contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb more than six feet of lead-based paint in most pre-1978 homes, child-care facilities and schools.

contractor
EPA.gov

The RRP rule requires lead-safe certification and work practices for contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb more than six feet of lead-based paint in most pre-1978 homes, child-care facilities and schools.

Home-improvement companies, such as Lowe’s, that contract with renovators to perform renovation work for their customers must ensure that those contractors comply with all of the requirements of the RRP Rule.

EPA says that in February 2014, it lodged enforcement actions against 35 renovation firms and training providers for alleged RRP Rule violations. Those settlements generated a total of $274,000 in civil penalties.

About Lowe’s

Founded in 1946, Lowe’s has grown from a small hardware store to the second-largest home-improvement retailer worldwide, the eighth-largest retailer in the U.S., and 19th largest in the world, according to a corporate fact sheet.

The company operates 1,830 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and serves approximately 15 million customers each week.

Lowe’s employs 250,000 people and reported $53.4 billion in sales for fiscal 2013.

   

Tagged categories: Contractors; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Lead; Lead paint abatement; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); Lowe's; Regulations; Renovation; Residential contractors

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (4/23/2014, 3:30 PM)

Going after the big guys is a good strategy for EPA. This story has been picked up by the LA Times. With stories on lead paint dangers getting this broadly publicized, the education needed to make the RRP law have an impact country-wide is closer.


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