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Enforcement

Magnolia Waco Properties, LLC Residential Property Renovation Rule Settlement Information Sheet

WASHINGTON – EPA and Magnolia Waco Properties, LLC, which does business as Magnolia Homes, have reached a settlement to resolve alleged violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule), related to home renovations conducted without adequate lead paint protections as depicted on the television program Fixer Upper. Under the terms of the settlement, Magnolia will take steps to ensure compliance with lead-based paint regulations in future renovation projects, address lead-based paint hazards at high-risk homes in Waco, Texas, and educate the public to lead-based paint hazards and appropriate renovation procedures.

Overview of Company

Magnolia Waco Properties, LLC, which does business as Magnolia Homes, is a renovation firm that remodels homes in the Waco, Texas area. The firm specializes in renovations that require extensive remodeling of older homes while preserving historical design elements. The activities of Magnolia and similar renovation firms came to EPA’s attention from their depiction on popular television shows. Magnolia’s renovations were depicted on the HGTV series “Fixer Upper” and regularly viewed by well over 3 million households.

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Violations

EPA’s Residential Property Renovation Rule, also known as the “Renovation, Remodeling and Painting Rule” (RRP Rule), implements a provision that Congress added to the Toxic Substances Control Act to ensure that home renovations would not expose occupants to dangerous levels of lead from the lead-based paint often contained in homes built before 1978. The RRP Rule requires firms performing renovations for compensation in such homes to use specific precautions, including lead safe work practices, to reduce the risk of exposure to lead, unless the firm documents that testing of building components prior to renovation demonstrated less than the regulated concentration of lead in surface coatings on the components.

Video footage of Magnolia’s renovations of older homes appearing in several seasons of “Fixer Upper” reviewed by EPA did not depict the lead-safe work practices normally required by the RRP Rule. After EPA contacted Magnolia with concerns about the company’s compliance, Magnolia took immediate steps to ensure compliance with the RRP Rule, including to obtain RRP certification and training for the firm and its staff and to ensure active compliance across all ongoing renovation projects.

EPA’s review of information it obtained with Magnolia’s cooperation found evidence of noncompliance at renovations of 33 properties. Among the violations subsequently alleged by EPA were that Magnolia did not comply with the following requirements and precautions of the RRP Rule:

  • Obtain firm certification from EPA before performing renovations covered by the RRP Rule;
  • Assign a certified renovator to such renovations;
  • Provide home owners or occupants with an approved pamphlet about lead-based paint hazards prior to the renovation;
  • Post signs to clearly define the work area and warn people to remain outside that area;
  • Comply with the RRP Rule’s work practice standards, such as closing doors and windows to the interior work areas, covering floor surfaces, ducts and other openings to work areas with plastic sheeting, and covering the ground with plastic sheeting to capture falling paint chips from exterior renovations.

Magnolia cooperated with EPA throughout the Agency’s inquiry, volunteering information about its renovation activities and proposing to undertake innovative projects to reduce the prevalence of childhood lead-poisoning in its community and to increase awareness of lead-based paint safety issues associated with renovations in older homes.

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Injunctive Relief

In addition to a civil penalty, this settlement includes relief focused in three areas: compliance management of Magnolia’s own renovation operations, outreach about lead-based paint safety to Magnolia’s national audience, and the reduction of lead-based paint hazards in Magnolia’s local community.

Magnolia took immediate steps to ensure the compliance of its own operations with the RRP Rule by becoming an EPA certified renovation firm, obtaining training and renovator certification for staff, and bringing active renovations into compliance. In this settlement, however, Magnolia took a step further in its commitment to compliance by implementing a compliance management program, in which it adopted an enhanced renovation recordkeeping checklist for use by its own staff and by subcontractors doing regulated work and agreed to compile periodic reports to EPA on its compliance implementation.

Magnolia also sought to improve the public’s appreciation for the serious hazards of lead-based paint contained in older homes and the precautions necessary to reduce those hazards. First, Magnolia spoke about lead based-paint on an episode of “Fixer Upper” and depicted some of the steps renovation firms must take to minimize those hazards in a segment of its March 21, 2018 episode of “Fixer Upper.” During and after the broadcast of that episode, a “Fixer Upper” co-star Chip Gaines sought to amplify the message about lead-based paint safety with messages to his Twitter followers about the importance of using a professional’s help to check for lead paint and a link to a website with information about lead safety and the RRP Rule. Second, Magnolia proposed a brief stand-alone video further discussing lead-based paint and the RRP Rule to be hosted on its webpage and promoted on social media. Magnolia agreed to post the video within three months of executing this settlement. In the video, Chip Gaines will discuss lead safety and depict some of the safe work practices required by the RRP Rule.           

Magnolia also looked for ways to make a concrete difference in its local community. To that end, the company will perform a supplemental environmental project (SEP) to abate lead-based paint hazards in homes or child-occupied facilities in the Waco, Texas area. A significant portion of Waco’s housing stock was built before 1978, and at least one neighborhood has had historically higher exposure to lead-based paint and a higher percentage of elevated blood lead levels in children than the statewide and national averages. Magnolia’s SEP, which will be performed with an independent abatement firm, will reduce the risk of exposure to lead-based paint by targeting the most likely sources of lead-based paint hazards in residences, such as window and door replacement, removal of lead-based paint and dust, permanent enclosure and encapsulation, and replacement of lead-based paint surfaces and fixtures. Magnolia has committed to spend $160,000 on the SEP.

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Pollutant Impacts

Even though lead-based paint was banned in 1978, it still remains in many homes and apartments across the country. According to HUD’s American Healthy Homes Survey, which was conducted from June 2005 through March 2006, an estimated 37.1 million homes – or 34.9 percent of all homes nationwide – have lead-based paint somewhere in the building. An estimated 34.4 million of these homes were built before 1978.

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Health Effects and Environmental Benefits

Lead dust can occur when lead paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home renovation and remodeling activities. Lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing. EPA enforces the RRP Rule and other lead rules to protect children and others who are vulnerable to exposure to lead dust that can cause lead poisoning.

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Civil Penalty

Magnolia will pay a civil penalty of $40,000.

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Contact Information

Amos Presler, Attorney
Waste and Chemical Enforcement Division
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
presler.amos@epa.gov
(202) 564-1076

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