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Press Photo by Lisa Call Leonard Krebs, employee at Sherwin Williams in downtown Dickinson, checks a paint sample after mixing it for a customer. Some paints used to contain lead but the practice was outlawed in April 1978.

EPA law may affect builders

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The Dickinson Press
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A new Environmental Protection Agency requirement regarding lead-based paint may drive up construction costs and some feel preparation time for the new law is inadequate.

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"It's a very serious deal and it's very scary to a lot of contractors," said Doreen Riedman, executive officer for the North Dakota Association of Builders. "In my 13 years with this organization, we've never seen anything like this ... a number of other regulations that have come down the pike have never had this much impact on this industry."

On April 22, a new renovation, remodeling and painting rule requires EPA certification for any person paid to paint, repair, renovate or remodel in homes, child-care facilities and schools constructed prior to 1978 where a chance of disturbing old paint exists.

Common remodeling methods such as sanding, demolition and window replacement can stir up harmful lead dust and chips.

While the EPA expects contractors to train employees, they haven't provided information on what and how it should be taught, Riedman said.

"It's going to be very burdensome on contractors," Riedman, said. "It's going to be an added expense to consumers and I don't think that's realized."

Contractors, however, already realize it.

"We're just going to have to charge a whole lot more," said Bob Simons, co-owner of Simons Homes in Dickinson.

Sandi Washek, coordinator of the lead-based paint program at the North Dakota Department of Health Division of Air Quality, also said consumers may feel the effects, evident by the higher prices contractors will have to charge.

A firm must pay $300 to become certified, then at least one staff member must become a certified renovator by taking an eight-hour, $250 course.

If contractors are found to be non-compliant, they would face a $37,500 fine per day per occurrence, Washek said.

"I've been painting for 34 years and I'm not dead yet and I take precautions because of lead stuff, but to pay $250 for a class, no, not going to happen here," said James Berger, a self-employed painting contractor in Dickinson.

Some feel the new federal law may make builders and contractors more selective about their choice in projects.

"I'm sure there's going to be some companies that are just going to say we're not going to do work on a house that's older than 1978," Riedman said. "It will impact projects on those older homes for sure."

Local painting contractor Dave Netzer is one of those saying no.

"I'm not going to get involved in that lead-based," Netzer said. "If there's any lead on the job I'm flat not going to touch it."

Kyle Kuntz of Kuntz Builders Inc. in Dickinson said the requirements are achievable; his firm will be shying away from working on pre-1978 structures until the regulations are better clarified.

"Our concern is that the EPA wasn't up to speed in getting enough trainers out there, so right now I think we're going to have a shortage of people trained to do the work, so that's only going to add to the cost of this as well," Riedman said.

While the association is trying to be in compliance with the new law, it is difficult to do so with only one training organization statewide, Riedman said.

"EPA has really put themselves behind the eight-ball on this whole thing from the get go and for us to be ready in less than two months is going to be interesting," Riedman said.

While the final law was written in April 2008, the implementation date is now April 22.

About 250,000 contractors across the country must be trained by April 22 and there are 150 EPA trainers, Riedman said.

For an eight-hour course with a maximum of 24 people per class, it is going to be quite difficult to achieve, Riedman said.

So far, about 10,000 people have been trained, she said.

A worker also has the option of receiving on-the-job training from the company-certified renovator, EPA Regional Lead Coordinator Michelle Reichmuth said.

She said requirements of the RRP rule include plastic containment areas on job sites, coverage of existing furniture to avoid construction dust, adding hazard signs to deter people from entering the area and all debris and waste from a worksite would need to be wrapped in plastic.

"The truth is that people who clean up their jobs already like good contractors do have been cleaning the carpets and vacuuming," Simons said. "We've been picking up after ourselves for years and not leaving the lead lying around."

Self-employed contractor Jerry Schwartz of Dickinson was trained last week.

"They mainly went through testing and containment and then cleanup," Schwartz said. "Even the testing, they said if it's pre-1978, rather than test you can just assume that it's lead-based paint. It was a good class."

Reichmuth said questions or concerns with lead and the RRP rule can be directed to EPA's lead hotline at 1-800-424-5323 at by visiting www.epa.gov.

"I think it's a great step forward for public health," Reichmuth said.

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