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EPA Enforcement Actions Help Protect Vulnerable Communities from Lead-Based Paint Health Hazards

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WASHINGTON  — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced 140 federal enforcement actions completed over the last year to ensure that entities like renovation contractors, landlords, property managers, realtors and others comply with rules that protect the public from exposure to lead from lead-based paint.  Exposure to lead dust, chips or debris from lead-based paint can pose serious risks to human health, particularly for young children.

“EPA’s work to enforce federal lead paint laws helps protect communities across the country,” said EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine. “These cases also hold violators accountable for their actions and help maintain a level playing field for companies that follow the rules.”

Regulations promulgated under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (LHRA) apply to most housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978.  TSCA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule and Lead-based Paint Activities Rule and LHRA’s Section 1018 Disclosure Rule require lead-safe work practices and disclosure of information about lead-based paint, among other things.  By ensuring compliance with federal lead-based paint requirements, EPA can address a major source of lead exposure that occurs in communities across the nation. Young children are most susceptible to the effects of lead, including neurologic impairments such as behavioral or learning issues, slowed growth and, in rare cases, seizures and death. A blood-lead test is the only way to determine if a child has an elevated blood-lead level. Parents who think their child has been in contact with lead should contact their child's health care provider. 

From October 2017 through September 2018, the enforcement actions included civil administrative settlements, civil complaints and default orders by EPA; and civil judicial settlements and criminal prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Justice.  Several cases resulted from referrals, tips and complaints from state/local authorities, consumers and others, including tips and referrals related to children with elevated blood-lead levels.  

The settlements require alleged violators to come into compliance with the law and, in most cases, to pay civil penalties. Collectively, the lead-based paint settlements obtained more than $1.2 million in civil penalties. In determining the appropriate civil penalty amount, the Agency considers a violator’s ability to pay, ability to continue to do business, and other factors.  In many settlements, EPA further reduced the fine under programs for very small lead-based paint businesses.  

Also, EPA obtained voluntary commitments to perform lead-based paint abatement projects in several settlements, including settlements of violations under the Clean Air Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).  Collectively, the abatement projects are valued at more than $900,000.  

Selected highlights include:

  • Magnolia Waco Properties, LLC d/b/a Magnolia Homes (TX), of the Fixer Upper national reality television show, settled alleged RRP Rule violations that were broadcast on the show.  Magnolia agreed to pay a $40,000 penalty, and to spend $160,000 to abate lead-based paint hazards in homes in Waco, Texas.  Magnolia also agreed to demonstrate how to comply with the law and disseminate information about lead hazards and RRP requirements via its television, Internet and social media platforms.  
  • New York City Housing Authority (NY), the nation’s largest public housing authority, settled alleged wide-spread lead-based paint and housing violations under a simultaneously filed complaint and proposed consent decree. The proposed Consent Decree, which is subject to public comment and court approval, affects approximately 175,000 apartments and 400,000 residents.  The proposed settlement requires the appointment of an independent federal monitor with authority to help ensure NYCHA’s compliance with lead-based paint and other requirements; and a commitment from New York City to provide at least $1.2 billion to address infrastructure issues.  At least 19 children associated with NYCHA apartments were diagnosed as having elevated blood-lead levels, and thousands more were put at risk.  
  • Bitner Brothers Construction Co., Inc. (PA), entered a two count guilty plea for violating lead-safe work practices while working inside dwellings at which families with small children were present.  Bitner Brothers was sentenced to a $10,000 fine, a two-year probation period, and a $125 special assessment fee.  
  • Stephen Craig (CT) was sentenced to six months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release thereafter, and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine for falsely certifying the completion of a lead abatement course.  Craig owned Boston Lead Company, LLC, d/b/a Environmental Training and Assessment.

To see a full list of the 2018 lead-based paint enforcement actions:

To see EPA’s Enforcement Alert on lead-based paint:

To read highlights of EPA’s efforts across program and regional offices to protect children from lead exposures:

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