Handling Lead-Based Paint During Post-Disaster Repair

Handling Lead-Based Paint During Post-Disaster Repair

Last year, the IRS sent out numerous notices granting certain low-income housing tax credit properties relief from specified Section 42 requirements to provide emergency housing relief needed as a result of devastation caused by some sort of natural disaster.

Last year, the IRS sent out numerous notices granting certain low-income housing tax credit properties relief from specified Section 42 requirements to provide emergency housing relief needed as a result of devastation caused by some sort of natural disaster. Most recently, the IRS issued such notices for devastation caused by flooding in Iowa from May to August 2011; for New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, which had to cope with Hurricane Irene; and for Alabama, North Dakota, and Missouri, which had to deal with some combinations of storms, flooding, and tornadoes during the first half of 2011.

If your site is located in areas prone to natural disasters, you need to know how to quickly and safely address any damage done to your buildings. Natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods often result in the need for emergency renovations to damaged apartment buildings and other structures. When common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition occur in structures that contain lead-based paint, such activities can create lead-based paint hazards, including lead-contaminated dust.

To protect against health risks, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule is designed to minimize exposure to lead-based paint hazards. Under this rule, contractors performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb paint surfaces in homes and child-occupied facilities (including day care centers and schools) built before 1978, must, among other things, be certified and follow lead-safe work practices.

We'll provide a brief overview of the RRP rule and highlight the emergency exemption to the RRP rule. The exemption ensures that owners and managers are able to act quickly to preserve their site in the wake of disasters.

RRP Rule

If you hire a certified contractor or you have staff to perform renovation work, you should be aware that these professionals must observe the requirements of the RRP rule. The rules apply to renovators and maintenance professionals who work in apartment buildings built before 1978. The RRP rules require contractors and maintenance professionals to be certified; that their employees be trained; and that they follow protective work practice standards. These standards prohibit certain dangerous practices, such as open-flame burning or torching of lead-based paint.

The required work practices also include posting warning signs, restricting occupants from work areas, containing work areas to prevent dust and debris from spreading, conducting a thorough cleanup, and verifying that cleanup was effective.

Resident notification. Renovation companies—including property maintenance staff—are required to provide owners and the occupants of a building being renovated with a copy of records demonstrating compliance with the RRP training and work practice requirements. This information must be delivered along with the final invoice for the renovation, or within 30 days of the completion of the renovation, whichever is earlier.

For common area renovations, the renovation firm or property maintenance staff must provide the residents “of the affected housing units” with instructions on how to review or obtain this information from the renovation firm at no charge. These instructions must be included in the notice provided to each affected unit or on signs posted in the common areas.

Cleaning verification vs. clearance testing. The RRP rule doesn't require clearance testing, but it does require cleaning verification once the work area has been cleaned up. Cleaning verification involves wiping horizontal surfaces with a disposable moist cleaning cloth and comparing it to the EPA Cleaning Verification card to determine whether the work area is clean.

If a renovation firm or site maintenance staff elect to use a laboratory analysis of dust wipes, such as dust clearance testing, instead of using the simple cleaning verification test, then the lab test results must be provided to both the occupant of the unit that was tested and the owner of the building. Also, owners must maintain these reports since they're required to be disclosed by law to future occupants of the specific unit and at the time of the building's sale.

Worker training. Under the RRP rule, renovators are certified for a five-year period. Currently, instructors complete an eight-hour renovator or dust-sampling technician training course.

In Case of Emergency

The overview above applies to site owners during the normal course of business. The rule's emergency exemption does release certified professionals from some of the rule's requirements that they otherwise would be required to follow—but only to the extent necessary to respond to an emergency.

Under the exemption, emergency renovations do not have to follow RRP rule requirements related to posting warning signs at the renovation site, containment of dust, waste handling, and training and certification to the extent necessary to respond to the emergency. Also, the information distribution requirements of the RRP rule do not apply to emergency renovations.

It's important to note that the RRP rule's requirements related to cleaning, cleaning verification, and record keeping are not exempt. Under the emergency provision of the RRP rule, individuals may perform activities that are immediately necessary to protect personal property and public health. These actions may include the removal of surfaces that contain lead-based paint. These actions need not be performed by certified or trained individuals to the extent necessary to alleviate concerns associated with the emergency.

For more information on the EPA's RRP rule, you can visit www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm#requirements.

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