WASHINGTON — Contractors who perform work in housing built before 1978 must be trained and certified to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) regulation. The rule applies to any contractor who might disturb lead paint to, for example, service behind-the-wall plumbing. Contractors who don’t get trained and certified by the April deadline will be subject to hefty fines.

The EPA’s RRP regulation affects a wide range of contracting firms, including renovators, painters, electricians, plumbers, maintenance firms, and others. It applies to pre-1978 housing and “child-occupied facilities,” which would include childcare centers and schools.

By April 2010, all firms doing work in pre-1978 housing or child-occupied facilities must meet the following requirements:

  • Be lead-safe certified by EPA.
  • Employ supervisory certified renovators who have successfully completed an EPA-accredited one-day training course.
  • Use only trained workers who have received specific on-the-job training.
  • Use specified lead-safe work practices and provide designated educational material.

Both individual “renovators” and contracting firms must be EPA-certified, noted Michelle Price, chief of the agency’s Lead, Heavy Metals and Inorganics Branch. Even contractors with previous lead abatement training must be trained and certified under this new program. This new program will allow contractors to help reduce childhood lead poisoning by working lead-safe. Contractors who fail to comply will risk penalties of up to $37,500 per day as well as potential private lawsuits.

To apply for firm certification, contractors need to fill out a short application, and submit it with a fee to EPA. EPA noted that is required by law to charge fees to cover the costs of the program. Fees vary depending on the certification, but an initial firm certification costs $550. The form, and associated material, is available on EPA’s Web site.

Hundreds of firms have already been certified. They will be able advertise that they are certified by EPA under the RRP program, and will also be given rights to use EPA’s new “Lead-Safe Certified Firm” logo.

Individual certification requires only successful completion of a one-day accredited training course. There is no additional fee to EPA. EPA has handed off the training responsibilities to 120 private training firms. These have been accredited to provide the specialized, one-day RRP training. Certification for individual “renovators” is automatic upon successful completion of training. The agency expects training classes to fill up and urges contractors to register for training now to avoid a rush and potential delays leading to non-compliance.

Thousands of individual renovators across the country have already taken this course and have become EPA-certified renovators. These individuals learned the specific work practices that are needed to protect themselves and their clients from lead contamination, and to allow them and their firm to work legally.

Additional information about the RRP rule or the certification process is available at the EPA, or from the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD [5323], or from EPA’s Small Entity Compliance Guide to Renovate Right.