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RRP Nightmare-GC and His Subcontractor Both Get Nailed By EPA


RRP Nightmare-General Contractor and His Subcontractor Both Get Nailed By EPA

RRP Nightmare


Unfortunately, complying with the EPA’s RRP rule is not simple.  And, attending the required RRP Certified Renovator Training class will not adequately educate a business owner on all of the business and production practices that must be put in place to keep the business from becoming yet another victim of the RRP Rule due to violations.  


Contractors need to keep in mind that ignorance about the details and requirements of the RRP rule are considered by EPA to be excuses, not reasons for non compliance.  An EPA RRP Violation press release about your business and the fines that come with it can be a real nightmare!

Click here for my EPA RRP Summary for Remodelers

What happened?

On Monday this week the EPA released a press release announcing that James J. Welch & Co., Inc. of Salem MA is facing a penalty of $28,125 for allegedly violating the RRP Rule’s requirements.

Child Occupied FacilityThe press release alleges that the violations occurred while James J. Welch & Co., Inc. was acting as the general contractor performing renovations on a project at the former Frisbee School in Kittery, Maine.  At the time of the renovation the Kittery site was a child-occupied facility and therefore was subject to Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule.


Three things stand out to me as things all general contractors need to be aware of:

  1. The violation was brought to EPA’s attention via an anonymous tip.
  2. The work that was in violation was being done by a subcontractor.
  3. Both the GC and the subcontractor are facing separate fines for the violations

RRP anonymous tipIn Feb. 2012, after receiving the anonymous tip, the EPA and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection performed an inspection of the site.  Based on the inspection, EPA determined that the general contractor did not ensure that a company hired as a subcontractor to replace windows at the school, New Hampshire Glass, was complying with the required work practices required under the RRP Rule.   (EPA press release about New Hampshire Glass violations and fine)

The violations included:

  • Failure to assign a certified renovator to the work site
  • Failure to cover the ground with plastic sheeting
  • And, failure to contain waste from the renovation activity


Learn from their mistakes

RRP and SubcontractorsThe nightmare both of these businesses are going through should serve as a warning for other business owners.   Both general contractors and sub contractors need to know each other’s responsibilities when it comes to compliance with the RRP Rule.   By understanding the rule the GC and the sub can then come to an agreement about who will do what and when they will do it to make sure that both of them are in compliance while doing the work, as well as creating and maintaining all required paperwork and documentation.   If you do not already have these things under control at your business I suggest you read my September 3, 2010 RRPedia blog titled: Contractors and Subs Doing EPA RRP Work Will Need to Work Things Out


Related articles:

If a Lead Test Indicates No Lead, Can A Non-Certified Firm Do The Work?

Do My Sub Contractors Need To Be RRP Certified?

Do my subs need to be EPA RRP Certified Firms?

Insurance Companies Rethinking Coverage Due to EPA RRP Rule




Soooo glad I went back to school to get out of the window business 
Thirty years experience in fenestration work evaporates due to this issue. Going to do some repair work while my new career in the Marcellus gas play takes off. see yall later.
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 10:11 AM by Mike
While it's nice that the EPA is actually enforcing this important health and safety issue in this case, they are not in 1,000s of other cases. 
I can drive down the main road in our town and spot 2-3 violations per day. The EPA knows about it but they won't do anything serious about educating the public and workers who are creating lead dust in residential homes and condos. 
Making an example out of one or two contractors who violate health and safety laws does not encourage the 1,000s of remotely located workers and property managers. 
We will always do the right thing, but we know the majority do not and it's the homeowners, their guests and children who will suffer.
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 2:17 PM by Michelle - Certified Renovator
One should recognize that this was/is a school, and as such subject to a lot of scrutiny under the spirit as well as letter of the regulations. In order to get into this position I believe the general contractor had to be negligent.Their behavior gives the regulators ammunition in their crusade.
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 2:21 PM by Len
I'm glad I'm semiretired. How about the roofers who are not complying with the new safety 
regs. See them every day. Fines 
for everyone, yeep ee
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 2:30 PM by Ed Tarkowski
Its unfortunate press for our industry, apparently the correct press for that individual GC. The EPA is right, ignorance is not an excuse. Also, the EPA does do a lot to educate the public. However, the EPA can only be a partner in that exercise. Our industry needs to embrace this rule, versus fighting it. Compliance with lead paint removal procedures are a breeze, and should be willing done out of safety concerns for all involved - including the workers.
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 2:37 PM by Jef
Thanks for he great comments so far. You all make great points.  
When I taught the Certified Renovator class I always tried to help the attendees with practical application of the rule's requirements. One I always brought up was verifying whether or not the property was or was intended to be a child occupied facility. The other was that all subs have to be certified firms even if the GC is a certified firm.  
Too many contractors and subs are mis-informed about this rule. Yes, EPA shares some responsibility for that reality, but it is not an excuse that will have merit in court if a contractor is sited for violations. 
Be sure to check out the RRPedia page of this site for information about the rule. Use the topic tags on the right side of the page to help you find what you are looking for.
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 2:43 PM by Shawn McCadden
Illegal work abbounds. Unscrupulous contractors are plentiful. Until both the homeowner/business owner and the contractor they hired because he was $1000s less have to pay nothing will change.
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 2:58 PM by Hamilton
This being a school, with children, I'm in agreement with following procedures given the potential lead hazard, if there was one. Assume no testing was done up front. 
Beyond that, I've closed down my remodeling business because I can't compete with contractors who aren't following the rules. In my bracket, it seemed nobody was making any dollar provision in their bids to cover the cost, not even the testing, and I couldn't get liability insurance for lawsuit protection. Like the other post, I see jobs every day that clearly aren't following guidelines. 
I agree that lead exposure can be a problem for children and pregnant women, but the way the RRP has been implemented, per issues cited in the other posts, I can't take the personal risk.
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 3:18 PM by Craig Campbell
If the EPA is saying ignorance is not an excuse for non compliance, then why should contractors accept the EPA ignorance in parts of the rule. Example 1 Why are homeowners that work on their own homes exempt? Is lead dust only dangerous when a contractor deals with it? Example 2 Say the contractor puts in a window --plastic out 10 feet in all directions exterior and plastic out 6 feet all directions interior etc etc. But on that very same house a contractor could hop on a 20 ton bulldozer with bologna sandwich in one hand, iced tea in the other hand and a cigar in his/her mouth and smash the house to smithereens in 90 mile hour winds and doesn't need to follow any of the lead safe rules a remodeler has to follow. Demolishing a house creates less dust than changing a window?? Or is the lead dust from a demolition less harmful? Example 3 Where does it say in the RRP brochure-- " The contractor by following these rules will contain all the dust he/she created doing your job and cannot be held responsible for any past present or future lead dust contamination." Does the EPA have any faith following the rules is protective for children, or by not saying the above, have they built in a safety net for themselves? 
Example 4 If the rule is as effective at protecting from lead dust (as EPA claims) then why isn't there a discount from insurance companies for contractors that are RRP certified? 
Risk=liability. If by following the rrp rule there is less risk for a child to get ebll's from a remodeling project, then shouldn't liability insurance for a certified contractor be less??  
The EPA has based this rule on studies. In my opinion studies are very similar to a weather forecast in that they use current information to predict a future outcome. If a weatherperson predicts sunny skies and it started to pour down rain, would you continue standing in the rain just because the weatherman predicted sunny skies??  
The amount of children with ebll's (elevated blood lead levels) has dropped dramatically at a time when remodeling activity more than doubled. I realize there could be other factors for the reduction--but using common sense it begs the question just how many ebll's are specifically caused by remodeling activity? (in that all other possible causes were ruled out) 
Example 5 Back up the need for this rule with facts. (not isolated studies or reports) Show a ten year history of specifically how many children had ebll's directly related to remodeling (and where all other possible causes were ruled out) and if the remodeling was done by a professional contractor.  
Lead has been found in multiple areas: cosmetics, child safety car seats, water supplies, purses etc etc. The list goes on and on. But since the EPA has cherry picked the remodeling industry with heavy handed regulation, (with only token efforts at controlling the other areas of lead contamination) then it stands to reason that the main liability focus is going to follow the main regulatory focus. 
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 7:20 PM by RayC
My sentiment is with the RayC post. My gut says that on the RRP we're trying to kill a gnat with a sledge hammer. I'm still in favor of protecting children and pregnant women from lead dust dangers, but I've never been convinced that the RRP rules provide effective protection. Granted, the procedures can probably help mitigate some of the danger, but if you've been through the training you can see that the RRP rules and procedures are not providing absolute protection and that the system is seriously flawed, especially with many contractors ignoring the rules entirely. 
Economically, not allowing the "opt out" in many cases where there's not a need to apply the rules, in addition to the creation of an unlevel playing field where many small contractors aren't following the rules, just puts some really good smaller contractors out of business. In turn, these smaller contractors, like me, going out of business make it harder for the sub-contractors who used to rely on us to find work. Broadly, this kind of government intervention is a factor that makes for the anemic economic recovery we're experiencing. Along with busy work requirements in construction and other ffields, It's getting tougher to be an entrepenuer when the government assumes we can all add non-essential and non-effective tasks to our efforts to provide quality services.
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 8:48 PM by Craig Campbell
LOOK, they broke the rules, the rules are simple, there are NO exceptions, everyone included. They deserve discipline and fines. I follow the rule as best as possible, and no one is perfect, but these guys were obviously negligent to even get a response.
Posted @ Friday, August 16, 2013 11:33 PM by Matthew Amann
I agree with RayC. If replacing a painted wood window causes lead dust, what about the years of opening and closing that same window. Should I and/or can I request that the occupants have blood tests before and after my work to prove that my actions were not harmful? I'm seriously looking for another line of work.
Posted @ Monday, August 19, 2013 6:32 AM by PaulB
As a business you have the right to ask a client/prospect to do blood testing, but at the same time the prospect/customer has the right to decline.  
With marketing that helps you do so, you can attract and only work for customers with homes that were built after 1977. Keep in mind that most contractors don't do much marketing so if you do your marketing well you can get to them before the other contractors do.
Posted @ Monday, August 19, 2013 7:18 AM by Shawn McCadden
Until building code officals start inforcing the code with inspections of demolition violations will continue. In a local victorian town no remodeling follows the RRP reg's. Few are certified and no one is looking out for the unknowning home owners.
Posted @ Monday, September 02, 2013 3:11 PM by Joe Billingham
This company James J. Welch & Co., Inc. of Salem MA is facing a penalty of $28,125 for allegedly violating the RRP Rule’s requirements. This violation was in February 2012. I would like to see the final court judgement on what these two companies really had  
pay out of pocket. We always hear of these big fines but we never see the proof on what they settle out of court for. Please post the final results if and when it happens.
Posted @ Monday, September 02, 2013 7:17 PM by Donnie
Last year watching a segment of "This Old House" and listening to them talk about the lead issues and the proper way to handle same. They were taking down a chimney, wearing protective clothing and covering the roof with plastic....OK so far...but they were tossing contaminated bricks down to someone on the protective clothing or plastic....guess all the lead dust vanished. Then, they went inside to pull down the rest of the brick and didn't take any precautions at all, and the dust was so thick you could hardly see through it.  
"This Old House" must be exempt!
Posted @ Tuesday, September 03, 2013 7:42 AM by mike nolde
Shawn this is happening daily in my business. I work for a manufacturer CDCLarue Industries. We manufacture a HEPA certified vacuum that exceeds the EPA guidelines. I get calls all the time from Sub Contractors and Contractors needing to be HEPA Certified. A lot of them buy the HEPA Certified Pulse-Bac no clog vacuum that we manufacture but they do not take the class required by the EPA. So they are not covered if the EPA decides to show up unannounced. I think many of these guys don't understand what is required of them. Educating them is huge. This is the Pulse-Bac I sent to you Shawn to review. 918-216-6115. I praise your efforts.
Posted @ Thursday, September 05, 2013 8:53 AM by Peggy Tinsley
We all know the EPA is the enemy. Just wacko liberal environmentalists trying to run small business out of business in favor of the big unions. This whole thing is a joke.
Posted @ Saturday, October 12, 2013 6:35 AM by John
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