Home renovations may hit a wall
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
4/26/10 at 12:40 PM
WASHINGTON — Oklahomans hoping to have older homes remodeled or even worked on could see projects come to a standstill or even be canceled because of a federal rule designed to protect children from lead poisoning.
That's the warning from state homebuilders.
They blame the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to get the word out on a rule that takes effect next week requiring lead-safe practices to be used for renovations of pre-1978 homes, child-care facilities and school buildings.
They also claim the EPA has not even certified one trainer for the entire state of Oklahoma.
An EPA spokesman dismissed such concerns, saying local firms have had two years to get ready for the new rule.
EPA Spokesman Dale Kemery said the Oklahoma Association of Community Action Agencies in Oklahoma City is a training provider based in the state.
But a spokesman for that organization said its trainer has been certified for less than a month.
Communications Director Bob Brandenburg also said no public classes have been offered because the organization has not been licensed by the state of Oklahoma.
The EPA is expected to move forward with the rule despite a petition from the National Association of Home Builders to delay it.
"The impact is going to be substantial,'' said Paul Kane, executive vice president and CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa.
Kane suggested a majority of the contractors do not even know about the new rule.
"That's a problem for everybody,'' he said.
Kane said the new rule applies to all who work on older homes, such as plumbers, electricians, window installers, painters and roofers.
Mike Means, executive vice president of the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association, also faulted the EPA, claiming his organization learned of the new rule only this year.
Means said his organization has been swamped with calls from those wanting to get into one of the classes it has been able to schedule. He described the fine for not complying with the rule as onerous.
According to Kemery, the fine is $37,500 per day per incident.
Homeowners, Kemery said, are exempt from the fine.
"Quite frankly, they have had two years to get this job done,'' he said when asked about concerns of the state groups.
Kemery said the EPA will rely on tips and complaints to enforce the rule. He said those will be passed on to an enforcement office within the agency for possible further action.
Since 2008, Kemery said, the EPA has used mass e-mails and mailings, provided information to trade publications and worked with a large marketing firm to get the word out about the rule.
He blamed any delay on getting certified on "human nature.''
As of Friday, Kemery said 27 renovator training classes have been offered in Oklahoma.
"We estimate there have been 621 renovators trained, and we estimate that by April 22 there will be almost 1,000 trained renovators,'' he said.
The EPA expects more than 125,000 renovation and remodeling contractors nationwide to be trained in lead-safe practices by the time the rule takes effect next week.
That keeps the agency on target to implement the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, which requires training to minimize lead exposure.
Despite nearly three decades of efforts to reduce childhood lead exposure, the EPA states, 1 million children in the U.S. are still poisoned by lead paint each year, putting them at risk for certain health problems such as lowered IQs and behavioral disorders.
Lead-contaminated dust from remodeling projects is blamed for at least some of the poisoning.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has joined with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., over the past year in writing letters to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on the matter.
Last month, Inhofe signed another letter with nine other senators to the Office of Management and Budget.
They urged OMB to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure enough certified renovators are available to meet the compliance goals of the rule.
In its request for a delay, the National Association of Home Builders also cited the need for more trainers and complained about inaccurate test kits.
Kane said the kits' false positive rates are unacceptable, adding those rates can be as high as 78 percent.
Jim Myers (202) 484-1424
Bill Sampson, owner of Sampson and Sons Painting and Decoration Co. and a contractor for All American Remodel, paints the kitchen of a home at 2633 E. 26th Place on Monday. A new Environmental Protection Agency rule prohibits renovations on pre-1978 homes and child-care centers unless the contractor has been trained in lead mitigation by an EPA trainer. SHERRY BROWN / Tulsa World
Ken Saltink, owner of All American Remodel, measures mantle space Monday in a home at 2633 E. 26th Place. Beginning next week, an Environmental Protection Agency rule prohibits renovation of pre-1978 homes and child-care centers unless contractors are trained in lead-safe practices. SHERRY BROWN / Tulsa World