The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that the so-called opt-out rule — under which remodelers are not required to follow lead-safe work practices in pre-1978 homes where there are no pregnant women or children under the age of six — will no longer be valid after July 6.
This will more than double the number of homes subject to new EPA lead regulations — from 38 million to about 78 million — according to U.S. Census estimates.
The agency also has published two new proposals to amend the Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule that went into effect on April 22.
Even with the opt-out clause in effect, the lead rule has had remodelers scrambling in Tennessee, where flood waters damaged or destroyed some 2,000 homes in the Nashville area alone, according to news reports.
EPA records showed that in mid May there were 113 accredited firms and one accredited trainer in Tennessee, a state in which there are 18,500 licensed remodeling contractors.
NAHB and the state home builders association have offered some solutions that would enable emergency repairs to be made despite the acute shortage of accredited firms, and the EPA’s regional office and state department of the environment continue to consider these ideas.
While there is an urgent need to address the situation in Tennessee, a similar problem could arise in other areas hit by a flood, hurricane or other disaster, NAHB pointed out.
Making matters worse, there is little awareness among residents whose homes have been damaged by the flooding that the lead-safe work practices even exist and that they should take care in hiring contractors to do the work.
“NAHB believes that the EPA should coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to raise consumer and contractor awareness of this issue,” the association advised.
Additions to the Rule
One of the two new amendments proposed by the EPA earlier this month would expand the Renovation, Repair and Painting rule to require remodelers to perform abatement-style clearance testing after finishing projects in pre-1978 housing. Currently, remodelers are required to make sure the work area is clean by using a “white glove” test that compares the color and amount of any residue on a Swiffer with an EPA-provided sample card.
Clearance testing takes the cleaning process one step further into the realm of lead abatement, a development that NAHB has long opposed because it is beyond the scope of a rule targeted to remodelers.
This proposal, published in the May 6 Federal Register, is expected to be finalized later in 2011.
The second proposal would extend the scope of the lead regulation to all public and commercial buildings built before 1978, not just homes and childcare facilities.
The advance notice provided for this amendment is just the first step in a process that may not be finalized until 2013.