Contractors have month to meet new EPA lead-training rules

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New federal lead abatement rules have professional housing renovators and contractors scrambling to finish certification classes before the April 22 deadline.

The new Environmental Protection Agency Renovation, Repair and Painting Program rules affect anyone hired to help renovate homes built before 1978. That includes remodelers, electricians and plumbers.

The rule changes and the EPA’s justification for them are spelled out in a 79-page Adobe Acrobate file located on the EPA’s Web site.

The EPAs rules are similar to Housing and Urban Development lead abatement rules for federally funded projects. Maine adopted the Lead-Smart Program in 2003 to help local contractors comply with those rules.

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“They both teach about safe practices for people working around lead and for safe renovations and painting,” said Carol Cifrino, program coordinator for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s lead hazard prevention program.

Both programs teach contractors how to remove lead-tainted paint and other old household fixtures safely for both employees and residents. It’s especially important in Maine, with so many older houses.

“We have hundreds of contractors that have had Lead-Smart training, and many of them are in the L-A area,” Cifrino said. The DEP’s Web site has a list with 587 contractors trained in the lead-safe techniques statewide — with 94 of them in Lewiston-Auburn.

Contractors that have completed Maine’s Lead-Smart training only have to take a half-day course from a certified trainer to meet the EPA requirements, Cifrino said. Anyone else needs to take a full-day class on lead abatement and removal techniques.

“The problem contractors are having is getting those classes,” she said. The EPA began allowing training programs to apply for lead certifications in April 2009. It takes at least six months to get a program certified, she said, so EPA certified training programs became available in November.

“So we have 100,000 people nationwide that need to get trained — and 20,000 in Maine,” she said. “And they basically have six months to do it. That’s a very short time-frame.”

The new rules also require renovators to carry insurance. That’s the biggest concern for John Morrison, of Morrison Hall Interiors and Renovators in Lewiston.

“We’ve taken the Lead-Smart courses and done quite a bit of work already, so the way we’re working won’t really change,” he said. “But I have to pay $2,700 per year in pollution insurance, and that’s not cool. Basically, they’re just trying to tighten the reins on the small contractors and the handyman folks. And that’s not really appreciated.”

The EPA has scheduled a briefing on the new rule for homeowners and contractors. It runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday, March 26, at the Holiday Inn by the Bay. Those planning to attend the session Friday need to register online at EPA’s Region 1 Lead Assistance and Enforcement Web site Thursday.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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