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Enforcement

Enforcing Lead Laws and Regulations

Read the FY2018 Lead Bulletin for information on enforcement and compliance actions on lead.Enforcement ensures that companies and individuals that violate the law are held accountable. The goal of EPA's compliance assurance activities is to protect public health, deter would-be violators, and level the playing field for companies that follow the law.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency), Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) and its partners use multiple statutory and regulatory authorities to prevent or reduce exposure to lead in environmental media. OECA leads and supports a variety of compliance assurance activities conducted by EPA Regions, and by states, tribes, and territories implementing EPA-authorized programs. Also, OECA collaborates with states, tribes, other federal agencies, communities, governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, and industry to address lead in the environment.

OECA’s enforcement and compliance Lead Bulletin for fiscal year 2018 provides an overview and selected highlights of activities conducted by the enforcement and compliance program and its partners to address actual and potential exposures to lead that put children and others at serious risk of harm.

Learn more about the Agency’s Lead regulatory program.

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Enforcement Highlights

The following are examples of lead-related enforcement actions:


Lead in Paint

Lead-based Paint Program

Exposure to lead from deteriorated or disturbed lead-based paint (LBP) is the single largest cause of childhood lead poisoning.  Therefore, EPA has promulgated LBP rules pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Residential Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Act. Those rules require lead-safe renovations and abatements, pre-renovation education, and disclosure of information about LBP and LBP hazards.  EPA enforces LBP violations through civil administrative actions, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutes civil judicial actions and criminal actions on EPA’s behalf.

Enforcement of the lead-based paint program is conducted under TSCA, which gives the EPA authority to inspect, subpoena documents, require testimony, and bring civil administrative actions.

EPA has issued civil administrative enforcement response and penalty policies. The goal of the lead-based paint enforcement response and penalty policies is to provide fair and equitable treatment of the regulated community, predictable enforcement responses, and comparable penalty assessments for comparable violations, with flexibility to allow for individual facts and circumstances of a particular case.

On October 25, 2018, the EPA announced its federal enforcement actions completed from October 2017 through September 2018 to protect the public, especially young children, from exposure to lead in paint. This year’s lead-based paint 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. More information on the Agency's fiscal year 2018 lead-based paint enforcement actions are available on EPA’s Lead-based Paint Enforcement Helps Protect Children and Vulnerable Communities - 2018 website.

Additional Lead-based Paint Enforcement Resources:

Compliance information regarding lead in paint is available from the Agency Compliance Monitoring Program for lead-based paint website.

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Lead in Soil

Storage and Disposal of Hazardous Wastes Containing Lead

To ensure that hazardous wastes are managed in a manner that does not endanger human health or the environment, EPA enforces requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regarding the safe handling, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes, including wastes containing lead. EPA and the states verify compliance with these requirements through a comprehensive compliance monitoring program which includes inspecting facilities, reviewing records and taking enforcement action where necessary.

RCRA also addresses the cleanup of lead contamination through its corrective action program. RCRA corrective action obligations may be implemented through permits and administrative orders. Since 1984, EPA has issued hundreds of corrective action orders to facilities that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous wastes, many of which address lead contamination. In some cases (e.g., at some smelters and refineries), lead was the primary contaminant or risk-driver addressed by the order. Similar to Superfund cleanups, corrective action at RCRA facilities can be complex and take several years to complete.

Lead at Superfund Sites

Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly known as Superfund), EPA finds the companies or people responsible for contamination (also known as potentially responsible parties (PRPs)) at a site and negotiates with them to clean up the site themselves. When appropriate, EPA uses its authority to order, or ask a court to order, PRPs to clean up the site. Where viable PRPs do not exist EPA can use Superfund Trust Fund resources to take appropriate action.

Lead is one of the most common contaminants found at Superfund sites across the country.   Cleanups are often complex, can take years to complete, and generally involve multiple enforcement actions to accomplish. EPA has used Superfund authority to address lead contamination in soils, sediments, demolition debris, mine tailings piles and other situations at hundreds of sites across the county. Superfund enforcement actions have compelled the removal of lead contaminated soils from many thousands of residential yards, greatly reducing the lead exposures of those playing, working and gardening in those yards.

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Lead in Water

Drinking Water

Control of lead in drinking water is handled under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Public water systems must comply with the national primary drinking water regulations. These regulations include health-based standards and monitoring and reporting requirements.

The EPA and states enforce the Lead and Copper Rule along with other important drinking water regulations. As part of a broader effort, the EPA issued the Drinking Water Enforcement Response Policy (ERP) in December 2009. The ERP is a new approach replacing the contaminant-by-contaminant compliance strategy with one that is more holistic. The ERP helps focus enforcement attention on public drinking water systems with the most serious or repeated violations, including noncompliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

Lead is rarely found in source water, but enters drinking water through corrosion of plumbing materials and service lines.

Rivers, Lakes, Streams and Coastal Waters

The Clean Water Act (CWA) focuses on improving the quality of the nation's waters. It provides a comprehensive framework of standards, technical tools and financial assistance to address the many causes of pollution and poor water quality, including municipal and industrial wastewater discharges, polluted runoff from urban and rural areas, and habitat destruction. The CWA prohibits anyone from discharging pollutants, including lead, through a point source into a water of the United States unless they have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

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Lead in Air

Enforcement of lead in the air is conducted under the Clean Air Act (CAA), which regulates stationary and mobile sources that emit air pollution. The act requires major stationary sources, such as manufacturers, processors, refiners, and utilities, to obtain operating permits and install pollution control equipment and to meet specific emissions limitations.

The major sources of lead emissions to the air today are ore and metals processing and leaded aviation gasoline. Other stationary sources are waste incinerators, utilities, and lead-acid battery manufacturers.

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Addressing Lead at Federal Facilities

Federal facilities comprise one of the largest and most diverse sectors in the nation, have a significant environmental footprint, and can play a large role in reducing exposure to lead from lead-based paint, water, soil, and air emissions at their facilities and in neighboring communities.  OECA endeavors to work with federal facilities to reduce lead risks, and to hold federal agencies accountable to the same standard of environmental compliance as other members of the regulated community.  

Through outreach to the Department of Defense (DOD) and civilian federal agencies, OECA collaborates with federal agencies to identify how to improve compliance with lead-related environmental regulations to address children’s health.

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Lead at Indian and Tribal Lands

Federally-recognized Indian tribes are able to implement, with EPA approval, a number of Agency programs that are directly related to reducing exposure to lead from lead-based paint, water, soils and air emissions from facilities located in Indian country. At this time only a small number of tribes are implementing these programs. As such, EPA is responsible for program implementation, including inspections and enforcements.  EPA direct implementation in Indian country is undertaken consistent with the relevant lead-related statutes and both tribal and non-tribal specific policies and guidance. OECA endeavors to work with tribes to reduce lead risks and ensure compliance.

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