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Watchdog Milwaukee » Lowe’s Violates EPA’s Lead Safe Renovation Rule
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5
May
2010

Lowe’s Violates EPA’s Lead Safe Renovation Rule

I was surprised. I am appalled. My wife and I decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood and what I saw was extremely disturbing. Workers from Lowe’s were installing windows in one of my neighbors homes and did not take any precautions what so ever to comply with lead safe renovation.

Lowe's Window Installation

On April 22nd, the EPA’s new lead safe renovator laws went into effect requiring contractors who work on homes built prior to 1978 take precautions to safeguard homeowners against lead poisoning. To be certified, contractors must complete a day long course on lead safe renovation and use lead safe practices to contain lead dust.

Lead was a common paint additive prior to 1978 and high levels of lead contamination have caused people to become ill and for children to develop cognitive disabilities. Especially at high risk are children and women who may be pregnant. The federal government requires lead safe renovation on all homes with lead paint levels of 0.5% or more to go through strict containment procedures. For 49 of the 50 states, there is a readily available test on the market that will tell renovators if lead levels are high enough to require that lead safe renovator practices must be used. Wisconsin lawmakers decided to make compliance even more difficult and Wisconsin is the only state in the country to require lead safe renovations where lead levels are higher than 0.06%. The technology is not yet available to make a commercially available and economically affordable test that will record lead levels that low. This means that legitimate, law abiding contractors must either purchase a $40,000 machine to test lead levels or they must assume lead is present and take precautions accordingly.

Lowe’s is not one of those law abiding contractors.

Last month I warned of this in my column. I wrote that there will be some contractors who simply ignore the laws rather than deal with the approximately $100 per window cost that contractors will have to bear. It was my assessment at that time that it would be the small, unlicensed Mom and Pop operations that happen to own a truck and a ladder and masquerade as legitimate contractors who would ignore the laws. It was those unlicensed businesses, I contended, that would continue to sell windows at the same market price as they always had, while legitimate contractors who had taken the courses, acquired the certifications, purchased the equipment, and used lead safe renovation techniques would be at a disadvantage.

Well I was right — sort of. I say sort of because the first contractor I saw violate this law was Lowe’s.

I did not expect to see a “Lowe’s Installation in Progress” sign in front of one of my neighbors home with workers slamming in windows without any roping off of the job site or any plastic containment barriers.

Having taken the courses and incurred the expenses to become a Lead Safe Renovator, I was appalled to see installers ignoring all safety requirements in a home with two small children. Lead poisoning is not a funny little game. It is a serious problem requiring painful chelation therapy for anyone who has been adversely affected by high lead levels. Even then, the damage done by lead poisoning may not be reversible. It is unconscionable for a contractor to cut corners to safe a few dollars when children are standing nearby watching the installation and playing in the work zone. To see a renovator who so blatantly ignores these rules when children and women of child bearing age are nearby is mind-blowingly irresponsible.

But never, never in a million years, would I have expected one of my favorite home improvement stores to be utilizing such unsafe practices and putting homeowners, children and even possibly babies inutero at danger. I am saddened to see that Lowe’s would use such irresponsible practices to make a buck.

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12 Comments

  1. john:

    I agree but did the EPA slap the proposed $37,500 fine to Lowe’s? They probably didn’t and if you called them to report the violation I highly doubt that they can enforce this. If one company has to abide by this rule than everyone must!

  2. Jamie:

    WOW – this isn’t right. My husband is a flooring installer for several Lowe’s stores in the Ohio and WV area and let me tell you, this is not happening here! They have been very strict about installers getting certified by the April 22 deadline and if they were not, they would be taken out of the system and not get any work from Lowe’s until they were certified as a Lead Renovator. So shame on this particular Lowe’s store for allowing this particular contractor to go out on this job.

  3. Richard Turner:

    I am a General Contractor in VA . Though I am the Owner, The entire operation is a Family Affair.
    We’ve specialised in Remodeling and renovations for over 40 yrs .

    Not counting the Equipment and Added Materials required
    to perform and Comply with the EPA “RRP Program” , WE have been REQUIRED to invest over $1000.00 in Certifications and Appliication Fees . This cost does NOT Include the cost of wages paid or time lost from productive measures , in order to Attend and Comply with the NEW ” RRP Regulations ”
    Once we comply with the purchase of Equipment and Materials required to Perform and Comply w/ “RRP” , it will have us , at minimum , $ 2500.00 – $ 3000.00 (2-3K) , before we are Able to even start, much less Perform the 1st JOB !
    Prospective Clients , those who fall under the RRP Requirment Sphere No Longer have the Option of Opting Out . These prospective Clients are NOW having to consider the additional costs in thier job budget , and This fact alone ,is bringing what little business flow that may have begun to stiffle and dry up…….

    EPA ” stated and published ” that the new requirements
    would ONLY add an additional $ 35.00 USD to the average job .

    …..while little jack leg contractors ,Lowes and those “One day Bathroom Renovators” go merrily on thier way,,,

    I firmly believe that Americas Motto should be changed .
    In GOD WE Trust , should be ammended to Read ,
    “In GOD WE TRUST , Whilst WE F%*K THEE ” !
    The Honesty of Democracy is RUINED by the
    Corrupt Politicial and Judicial Systems !
    (c)RT 2004

  4. Jamie:

    I’m not sure if the EPA would start fining $37,500 right now since it’s so new and there are still so many contractors that cannot even get into a class right now to get certified.

    And actually, Lowe’s wouldn’t get fined at all, the installer would. It’s the installers that are Lead Renovator Certified and are the certified firms, not Lowe’s (although I personally believe that Lowe’s should be considered the Firm and the installers (subcontractors) be certified lead renovators). But Lowe’s doesn’t really want anything to do with this and is trying to push as much off onto the installer as possible to keep them from any liability issues, which is why they are making their subcontractors be certified Firms.

    It’s really out of control right now. Honestly, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

  5. Richard Turner:

    (Please accept this correction of the original response)
    I am a General Contractor in Roanoke VA . Though I am the Owner, The entire operation is a Family Affair.
    We’ve specialised in Remodeling and renovations for over 40 yrs .
    The EPA ” RRP ” requlations is a VERY Expensive
    Requirment and Burdensome at Best.

    Not counting the Equipment and Added Materials required
    to perform and Comply with the , EPA “RRP Program” , WE have been REQUIRED to invest over $1000.00 in Certifications and Appliication Fees . This cost does NOT Include the cost of wages paid or time lost from productive measures , in order to Attend and Comply with the NEW ” RRP Regulations ”
    Once we comply with the purchase of Equipment and Materials required to Perform and Comply w/ “RRP” , it will have COST us , at minimum , $ 2500.00 – $ 3000.00 (2-3K) , before we are Able to even start, much less Perform the 1st JOB !
    I will NOT make such additional investments for required equipments until we’ve SOLD a job that requires the Prescribed Actions for RRP compliance .

    Prospective Clients , those who fall under the RRP Requirment Sphere No Longer have the Option of Opting Out . These prospective Clients are NOW having to consider the additional costs in thier job budget , and This fact alone ,is bringing what little business flow that may have begun to stiffle and dry up…….

    EPA ” stated and published ” that the New requirements
    would ONLY add an additional $ 35.00 USD to the average job .

    Our associates have had conversations with Local Building Inspectors and B.I.Inspection Departments , and we are being told that while they , the “B.I.Depts” been informed that compliance responsibility would be thier responsibilty ,Yet, FEW have taken any courses in or about the EPA “RRP” req’s or comformance/compliance with such laws.

    Meanwhile I’ll be potentially Bankrupting my company
    as I attempt to comply with ALL LEGAL Requirements
    for Renovations, YES Even REPAIRS, that MOST cannot afford . And as a Refresher,,Any Repair or Renovation made to homes built before 1978 and Children under 6 present 3 days or more in any Home… equals = 6 sf Inside Or 20sf Outside MUST Comply with EPA “RRP”
    ATTENTION,,Grand Parents and Baby Sitters

    …..while jack leg contractors ,Lowes and those “One day Bathroom Renovators” go merrily on thier way ,,,

    I firmly believe that Americas Motto should be changed .
    In GOD WE Trust , should be ammended to Read ,
    “In GOD WE TRUST , Whilst WE F%*K THEE ” !
    The Honesty of Democracy is RUINED by the
    Corrupt Politicial and Judicial Systems !
    (c)RT 2004

  6. Scott:

    This new law is insane. Contractors absolutely should use safe practices but to charge $300 for the training class and $800 for the license – its just another way to get rid of the small contractor – and when the cost is passed on to the homeowner – just another way that low income people in older homes will not be able to afford to improve their living conditions.

    So now, if I am poor but saved just enough money to replace my windows, in order to reduce my energy bills, in my 1 bedroom 1930’s home I have to pay 3 times as much because I have to find a certified EPA contractor.

  7. Michelle:

    I am an EPA Certified Renovator as is my husband. Our certified firm is 1 of 4 in Maui, Hawaii. There are only 42 certified firms in the entire state.
    I just heard that Sherwin-Williams is sponsoring an EPA RRP Training Class on July 14th in Kahului. Registration is at the store (808-877-2468). Fee is only $99!
    That is VERY reasonable. Across the country training class fees range from $175 – $225 but in Hawaii, the only game in town which is on Oahu anyway, is charging $425!
    Back to Lowe’s and their complete disregard of the EPA RRP Rule….I also understand they may be sending their “certified installers” to the Sherwin-Williams class. Cheap bastards. Lowe’s should be sponsoring training classes all over the country and using it as an excellent marketing and education tool.
    Buy local. Support your local businesses.

  8. RenovatingDeb:

    Although Senator Inhofe has succeeded in achieving a much needed delay of enforcement of the EPA lead paint rule, proposed is an even more onerous addition to the Renovator Rule. If enacted, the latest EPA revision will require laboratory dust clearance for even many small jobs, at a cost of hundreds of dollars per job. The testing could often cost more than the job itself.

    The proposal also makes it illegal to use most of the HEPA vacs recently purchased for this purpose

    A more complete analysis of the revision is posted at http://www.renovatorrules.com The EPA comment period ends July 6th. If you have concerns let the EPA, your US Senator and Congressmen know how you feel.

  9. Jim McGuigan:

    Regardless of the delay of enforcement by the EPA, the Wisconsin Department of Health is not backing down on their enforcement which continues to be the strictest and most difficult to enforce standard in the country.

    So, it’s no break for Wisconsin contractors.

  10. Dragen:

    When installers perform a job on houses built before 1978 they have to do a lead test. If the test comes up as negative no lead safety practices are required and it can actually be waived if no children are present.

  11. Jim McGuigan:

    Dragen. You are misinformed. The lead safety practices cannot be waived if children are not present. Also, the lead test is not valid in Wisconsin as Wisconsin has a tougher standard which, by the way, is not being waived until the fall.

  12. john:

    This bullshit law was not enforced until this administration! EVERYONE needs to vote in November and vote out these left winged liberals and get these ridiculous law DE-FUNDED! If the EPA doesn’t have the funding it will be pushed aside. The EPA is a joke just look at the oil spill in the gulf, the governor of LA wanted to put sand dunes in to protect the marsh lands and the ” Highly knowledgeable” EPA said and I quote ” We don’t know the impact of the sand on the environment” ARE YOU KIDDING what do you think the OIL is going to do you and doing you jackass!

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