Some regional offices of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are changing the way they approach lead-safe work practice inspections, which could be a factor in the rising number of companies fined for violating EPA regulations.
EPA’s approach to lead-safe work practice inspections varies by region. Region 7 (Midwest) is the latest to employ a more targeted approach, having recently increased its focus on the St. Louis, Mo., area.
The strategy mirrors what was done during the summer of 2014 in EPA Region 1 (New England), which concentrated its efforts primarily in New Haven, Conn. EPA says the strategy led to improved compliance and awareness of the Lead-based Paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) regulations. Out of the 65 inspections conducted in New Haven during that period, EPA issued enforcement actions against six companies.
“After seeing what was done in Region 1, we saw an opportunity for us to not only educate the remodeler community, but also the general public to help drive demand for the remodelers who are certified to do the job the right way,” said Jamie Green, chief of the toxics and pesticides branch for Region 7.
EPA issued a press release and conducted radio interviews when the initiative kicked off last August. Since then, 26 inspections have been conducted in St. Louis to evaluate lead-safe work practices.
Inspectors also began conducting “compliance assistance visits,” reaching approximately 200 remodelers throughout the city. The visits were done at times when regulated work was not being done, so rather than carry out an inspection, the inspectors would explain the RRP regulations, deliver information packets and answer questions.
Projects that receive full inspections are identified in a variety of ways, but primarily as a result of tips and complaints submitted by the general public, as well as from EPA-lead searches of publicly available information.
Still, many are conducted on an ad-hoc basis, according to Green, who says inspectors will often drop in on a project while traveling to and from predetermined inspections.
Next month, Region 7 will launch an advertising campaign to raise awareness among St. Louis-area consumers about the risks of lead exposure.
“The ultimate goal here is to protect children’s health,” Green said. “There are a lot of remodelers out there who are doing it right, so a large piece of this is to make sure we’re reaching out to consumers about the value of hiring those certified renovators.”
Green says it’s too early to determine the impact of the new, targeted approach. However, the focus on St. Louis will continue through the end of the year, when Green will assess the initiative’s effectiveness and decide if similar measures would be worthwhile in other parts of the region.
Nationwide, the number of enforcement actions against businesses that violated the RRP regulation increased in 2015. Seventy-five companies received fines of $2,000 to more than $50,000, mostly for violating work practice standards and/or failing to obtain proper training and certification regarding lead-safe work practices.