EPA Enforcement Actions Help Protect Vulnerable Communities from Lead-Based Paint Health Hazards

November 5, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced 140 federal enforcement actions completed over the last year to ensure that entities like renovation contractors, landlords, property managers, realtors, and others comply with rules that protect the public from exposure to lead from lead-based paint.  Exposure to lead dust, chips or debris from lead-based paint can pose serious risks to human health, particularly for young children. From October 2017 through September 2018, the enforcement actions included civil administrative settlements, civil complaints and default orders by EPA; and civil judicial settlements and criminal prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Justice.  Several cases resulted from referrals, tips, and complaints from state/local authorities, consumers and others, including tips and referrals related to children with elevated blood-lead levels.

The settlements require alleged violators to come into compliance with the law and, in most cases, to pay civil penalties. Collectively, the lead-based paint settlements obtained more than $1.2 million in civil penalties. In determining the appropriate civil penalty amount, the Agency considers a violator’s ability to pay, the ability to continue to do business, and other factors.  In many settlements, EPA further reduced the fine under programs for very small lead-based paint businesses.

Also, EPA obtained voluntary commitments to perform lead-based paint abatement projects in several settlements, including settlements of violations under the Clean Air Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).  Collectively, the abatement projects are valued at more than $900,000.

Selected highlights include:

Magnolia Waco Properties, LLC d/b/a Magnolia Homes (TX), of the Fixer Upper national reality television show, settled alleged RRP Rule violations that were broadcast on the show.  Magnolia agreed to pay a $40,000 penalty and to spend $160,000 to abate lead-based paint hazards in homes in Waco, Texas.  Magnolia also agreed to demonstrate how to comply with the law and disseminate information about lead hazards and RRP requirements via its television, Internet and social media platforms.

New York City Housing Authority (NY), the nation’s largest public housing authority, settled alleged wide-spread lead-based paint and housing violations under a simultaneously filed complaint and proposed consent decree. The proposed Consent Decree, which is subject to public comment and court approval, affects approximately 175,000 apartments and 400,000 residents.  The proposed settlement requires the appointment of an independent federal monitor with authority to help ensure NYCHA’s compliance with lead-based paint and other requirements, and a commitment from New York City to provide at least $1.2 billion to address infrastructure issues.  At least 19 children associated with NYCHA apartments were diagnosed as having elevated blood-lead levels, and thousands more were put at risk.

Bitner Brothers Construction Co., Inc. (PA), entered a two count guilty plea for violating lead-safe work practices while working inside dwellings at which families with small children were present.  Bitner Brothers were sentenced to a $10,000 fine, a two-year probation period, and a $125 special assessment fee.

Stephen Craig (CT) was sentenced to six months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release thereafter, and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine for falsely certifying the completion of a lead abatement course.  Craig owned Boston Lead Company, LLC, d/b/a Environmental Training and Assessment.

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