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Enforcement

Sears Home Improvement Products, Inc. Lead RRP Rule Settlement

(WASHINGTON, D.C. - September 28, 2016) WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced a settlement with Sears Home Improvement Products Inc. that resolves alleged violations of the federal Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule for work performed by Sears’ contractors during home renovation projects across the country. Under the settlement, Sears will implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work minimize lead dust from home renovation activities. Sears will also pay a $400,000 civil penalty.

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Overview

Sear Home Improvement Products, Inc. (SHIP) is part of the Sears Home Services division, within Sears Holdings Corporation. The Home Services division makes over 12 million service and installation calls annually through a network of 6,700 technicians and Sears’ 705 retail stores in the United States. SHIP performs the home renovation segment for Sears Homes Services through its network of third-party contractors. This work includes renovations, such as replacement of siding and windows and kitchen remodeling. A customer can purchase a home improvement product – like siding, windows, and kitchen cabinets – and contract with SHIP for its installation.  SHIP does not install the product itself.  Instead, it contracts with local third-party renovation specialists to perform the work. SHIP is headquartered in Longwood, Florida, does business in 45 states, and maintains 58 district offices. The headquarters of Sears Holdings Corporation is in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

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Violations

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, which is a part of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, is intended to ensure that owners and occupants of housing built before 1978, as well as any child-occupied facilities, receive information on lead-based paint hazards before renovations begin and that individuals performing such renovations are properly trained and certified by EPA and follow specific work practices to reduce the potential for lead-based paint exposure. Home improvement companies such as SHIP 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. The RRP Rule applies to both the retailer offering to perform the renovation and the contractor the retailer hires to renovate the property.

Between 2013 and 2015, EPA made several requests of SHIP for documents related to renovations in several states. EPA later identified 71 renovation sites in California, Nevada, Wisconsin, Georgia and New York where SHIP could not document its compliance with one or more of the following requirements of the RRP Rule:

  • that assigned renovators were certified as the RRP Rule requires (a violation of 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6));
  • that training had been provided to workers on lead-safe practices (a violation of 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6)(i));
  • that work areas were properly contained (a violation of 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6)(v));
  • that waste was contained on-site and while being transported off-site (a violation of 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6)(vi);
  • that the work area was properly cleaned (a violation of 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6)(vii)); 
  • that a certified renovator performed post-renovation cleaning verifications (a violation of 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6)(viii)); and
  • that a certified renovator delivered a lead hazard information pamphlet to the owner of the home (a violation of 40 C.F.R. § 745.84(a)(1)).

Additionally, EPA assessed violations at 18 renovation sites in Minnesota where SHIP failed to establish and maintain records of RRP compliance or to make RRP compliance records available to EPA (violations of 40 C.F.R. § 745.87(b)).

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Injunctive Relief

SHIP must contract only with EPA-certified and state-certified firms and renovators, ensure they maintain certification, and ensure they use lead-safe work practices during renovations. This settlement also adds requirements to SHIP’s compliance program beyond what is required by the RRP Rule to better protect Sears customers nationwide during renovations of any housing that was built before 1978 and any child-occupied facilities. Significant elements of this program include:

  • SHIP will require its contractors to use an enhanced Installer Renovation Recordkeeping Checklist in which contractors will certify their compliance with detailed elements of the RRP Rule;
  • SHIP will require its contractors to provide the completed and signed Checklist to customers;
  • SHIP will not issue final payment to a contractor for a renovation until the contractor has provided SHIP a completed Checklist, including certification that the contractor made the Checklist available to the customer;
  • SHIP will add a link on its website to a page on EPA’s website that discusses lead-safe work practices; 
  • SHIP will use a company-wide system to actively track the RRP firm and renovator certifications of its contractors; and
  • SHIP will suspend anyone that is not operating in compliance with the RRP Rule, investigate all reports of potential noncompliance, and ensure that any violations are corrected.

EPA reached a similar settlement with home improvement retailer Lowe’s Home Centers in 2014 requiring the company to implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide compliance program at its over 1,700 stores nationwide to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work minimize lead dust from home renovation activities. 

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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 and other lead rules to protect children and others who are vulnerable to exposure to lead dust that can cause lead poisoning. A blood lead test is the only way to determine if a child has a high lead level. Parents who think their child has been in contact with lead dust should contact their child's health care provider.

Renovation firms that are certified under EPA’s RRP Rule are encouraged to display EPA’s “Lead-Safe” logo on workers’ uniforms, signs, websites and other material, as appropriate. Consumers can protect themselves by looking for the logo before hiring a renovation firm. Consumers can learn more about the RRP Rule and hiring a certified firm by calling the National Lead Information Center at 1 (800) 424-LEAD or visiting www.epa.gov/lead.

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Civil Penalty

SHIP will pay a civil penalty of $400,000.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The government will publish a notice of the settlement in the Federal Register and give the public thirty days to comment on it. EPA and DOJ will review the comments and make a recommendation to the Court based on their assessment of the comments received.  The standard for entry of a consent decree is whether the settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate, consistent with applicable law, and in the public interest.  During the public comment period, the consent decree may be examined and downloaded at Department of Justice website

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For more information, contact:

Amos Presler
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-1076
presler.amos@epa.gov