WASHINGTON – Lowe’s Home Centers has agreed to implement a lead abatement compliance program at its over 1,700 stores nationwide to ensure that contractors it hires to perform work minimize lead dust from home renovation.

The agreement is part of a settlement with the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which determined Lowe's had violated the federal Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule. Lowe's will also pay a $500,000 civil penalty, the largest ever for violations of the RRP Rule. The consent decree was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

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EPA said its inspectors reviewed RRP Rule recordkeeping and work practice standards at private homes that had been renovated by Lowe’s contractors. EPA, which enforces the RRP and other lead rules, found Lowe’s failed to provide documentation showing that specific contractors had been certified by EPA, had been properly trained, had used lead-safe work practices, or had correctly used EPA-approved lead test kits at renovation sites.

EPA’s investigation also found that Lowe’s had failed to ensure that work areas had been properly contained and cleaned during renovations at three homes.

“Lowe's is taking responsibility for the actions of the firms it hires, and EPA expects other contractors to do the same,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

EPA said it discovered the violations, following consumer tips, when it reviewed records from projects performed by renovators working under contract for Lowe’s stores: Alton, IL; Kent and Trotwood, OH; Bedford, NH; Southington, CT; South Burlington, VT; Rochester, NY; Savannah and Lebanon, TN; Boise, Idaho Falls, and Nampa, ID; and Muldoon, AK.

Now Lowe’s must launch a nationwide program at all its stores to ensure that contractors it hires to perform renovation projects, such as window and door installations, are properly certified for lead abatement.  

In addition to the $500,000 penalty, Lowe’s must verify contractors it hires to perform work for its customers comply with the RRP Rule during renovations of any child-occupied facilities, such as day-care centers and pre-schools, and any housing that was built before 1978. For these projects, Lowe’s must contract with only EPA or state-certified renovators, and must suspend anyone that is not operating in compliance with the rule, investigate all reports of potential noncompliance, and ensure that any violations are corrected.

Lead-based paint was banned in 1978 but still remains in many homes and apartments across the country. Lead dust hazards can occur when lead paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home renovation and remodeling activities.

EPA says in Feb. 2014 it took RPP enforcement actions against 35 renovation firms. Renovators certified under EPA’s RRP Rule can display EPA’s “Lead-Safe” logo on worker’s uniforms, signs, websites, and other material. 

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