EPA Relaxes Lead Rule On Small Renovators

September 13, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently declined to adopt several new proposed revisions to its Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, which could have imposed almost $300 million in additional annual costs to small contractors.

One proposed change to the existing rules that the agency declined to adopt would have required contractors performing any renovation in a home built prior to 1978 to conduct dust wipe testing after completing the renovation. To perform the test, a contractor would have been required to wipe a renovated surface and send the sample to a certified laboratory to test for the presence of lead dust. Only once the lab had concluded that the renovated area was not a health concern would the renovation be “cleared” and the homeowner or business able to reenter the premises.

The EPA also clarified its “vertical containment” requirement by making compliance easier through a more flexible approach. Under the initial “vertical containment” proposal, contractors would have been required to build scaffolding surrounded by plastic sheathing in order to contain lead dust and limit the potential of exposing nearby properties. The final rule allows for several different measures to be undertaken to limit exposure.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) called EPA’s decision a major victory for small business owners nationwide saddled with needlessly onerous regulations that are stifling their ability to grow and prosper during these difficult economic times. Some public health proponents criticized the decision as concession to businesses at the expense of children’s health.

Please click here to view the full text of the final rule.