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The Real Cost of the New EPA Lead Safe Rule

As of April 22, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has passed a rule called the Renovation, Repair and Painting rule which requires all contractors, property managers or other firms and their workers to be trained in and utilize lead-safe work practices. The new Lead-Safe Certification is a federally regulated program that will help reduce hazardous lead dust commonly caused by renovation and demolition projects. However, this new rule is creating quite a stir in the contracting world as many workers are worried about the financial burdens associated with the increased costs associated with lead-safe practices.

The new Lead-Safe Certification is just one part of the EPA' campaign for preventing lead poisoning. According to the EPA, lead poisoning amongst children within the United States is a huge problem; damage to the brain and nervous system, hearing problems and headaches are just a few of the problems that can affect children who have been exposed to lead. Although children' bodies more readily absorb lead, adults are also at risk for lead poisoning and may experience toxicity in the form of nerve disorders, muscle pain and reproductive problems. The EPA had decided to make serious strides in the area of preventing lead exposure and the new Renovation, Repair and Painting rule (RRP) will definitely help steer their agenda.

The RRP directly applies to contractors or firms that are renovating, repairing or painting homes, child care facilities or schools built before 1978. From demolishing a building to electrical work to simply replacing a window, the EPA requires workers to use lead-safe practices so as to not disturb lead paint. The EPA estimates about 38million homes and apartment units contain lead paint. The rule does not cover buildings built in 1978 or later and includes other exemptions such as housing for elderly persons. As well, the rule does not apply to homeowners; though the EPA strongly encourages homeowners to use lead-safe practices when renovating their homes. Currently, the training involves 8 hours to be paid-out-of-pocket. In addition to the training, there is a $300 certification fee per person to be renewed every five years.

Unfortunately for many contractors and other individuals who are targeted by the new rule, these costs are just a portion of what the overall cost will be to run business as lead-safe certified. Already challenged by the downturn in the economy, contractors fear that they will have to dish out several thousands more annually. One Chicago mold-removal company estimates that the RRP rule will add $160,000 to $300,000 a year in equipment and labor expenses to their already struggling budget. Why the increase? As part of the new lead-safe work practices, companies will be required to use respirators, protective clothing, lead-testing kits, plastic sheeting, and other materials. In addition, the added expenses further push small businesses into the hole as many are struggling to just keep their doors open during this tough economic time. With limited cash flow, the new EPA rule has several small business owners scratching their heads on what to do next. In fact, contractors are saying that they expect that most small companies will skip the certification entirely because of the associated costs.

To balance the extra expenses, firms will have to charge more; however, contractors fear that property owners won?t want to pay any extra fees, especially when so many have already cut back on spending. In general, the new EPA rule has contractors across America anticipating a significant decrease in profits. In addition, companies are worried that the rise in costs will cause property owners to take remodeling on themselves rather than hiring out. Worse yet, lead-safe companies fear that property owners will choose to deal with companies who have chosen to ignore the RRP rule and thus, be able to continue to charge less for services.

In contrast to what the companies affected by the RRP rule are fearing, the EPA has stated that upon doing research, it found that the new requirements associated with the RRP rule will not burden businesses as anticipated. Furthermore, the EPA estimates that jobs will most likely cost from $8.00 to $167.00 (adding between 5.3% and 11.2% in material and labor expenses to the cost of home-renovation projects in older homes); a price that, according to the EPA, is much less costly than the effects of lead poisoning.
As for companies that don?t comply with the EPA' mandatory lead-safe certification, the EPA can fine a company up to $37,500 a day for violating the rule. But the question remains: how will these non-compliant companies ever get caught?

So, it appears that perhaps, companies are over reacting. What is there to lose? An unlikely fine? A satisfied customer? Lead-poisoning due to unsafe practices just to save a couple bucks?

A silver lining to the new RRP rule debacle is the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act. The recently passed bill proposes to ?create nearly 170,000 jobs in construction, retail and manufacturing. The bill would offer rebates for whole-home retrofits, saving American families $9 billion on their utility bills over the next 10 years?. Home Star will provide homeowners with rebates for energy-efficiency upgrades -- a total of $6 billion over two years. How will this help firms fearing financial burden from the RRP rule? Through the Retrofit Act, consumers will have two incentives: a Silver Star performance path and a Gold Star performance path. It is the Silver Star path that will most likely lend influence to lead-safe certified firms as it will rebate between ?$1,000 and $1,500 for each measure installed in the home, or $250 per appliance, with a benefit not exceeding $3,000 or at least 50% of total project costs (whichever is less). Covered measures include air sealing; attic, wall, and crawl space insulation; duct sealing or replacement; and replacement of existing windows and doors, furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, water heaters and appliances with high-efficiency models.? The gold star performance path will offer incentives to properties that conduct an energy audit and then implement a variety of measures to achieve maximum energy efficiency. Consumers receive ?$3,000 for modeled savings of 20%, plus an additional $1,000 incentive for each additional 5% of modeled energy savings, with incentives not to exceed 50% of project costs.? However, it is important to note that contractors who are involved in a Gold Star renovation must be accredited by the Building Performance Institute (BPI).

It remains, then, up to property owners to take the initiative and help the EPA' campaign towards lead safety. Work with certified lead-safe contractors, firms and individuals. The EPA has published a guide on their website to help consumers find certified firms in their area; tips include simply asking to see the company' lead-safe certificate. In addition to complying with the EPA' rule, hiring a Lead-Safe certified company will also give you information on your property including one or both of the following: 1) an inspection of every painted surface of your property and/or 2) a risk assessment to tell you sources of lead exposure and what actions need to be taken to reduce the hazard. And hopefully, with the benefits of the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, property owners will have an easier time deciding which route to take.

At the end of the day, there will be firms that decide to ignore the RRP rule. There will be property owners who hire companies who are not certified or choose to do the work themselves without using lead-safe practices. However, while property owners and firms will be saving money, there will be a serious cost incurred. The cost could be the health of yourself or a loved one and frankly, it' a cost that just isn?t worth it.

Advanced Restoration, Inc. is a Water Damage, Mold Damage, Sewer Damage and Emergency DisasterRecovery Restoration Company in Tampa Bay, Florida. Company Services Include: WATER DAMAGE EXTRACTION and RESTORATION; MOLD REMOVAL and MOLD REMEDIATION; STORM DAMAGE RESTORATION; FLOODS; HURRICANE DAMAGE; SEWER DAMAGE; Complete Restoration Services. Residential, Commercial & Industrial structures in the Tampa Bay Metro Area, Sarasota County, FL, ManateeCounty, FL and Okaloosa county, FL. 1-800-DRY-ME-OUT http://www.drymeout.com

posted on Jun 13, 2010