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Industry Opinion: The RRP Lead Law

A veteran kitchen designer speaks out on the RRP Lead Law and the "course"
By Mark Brady
June 21, 2010

Kitchen and bath designer (and K+BB Collective blogger) Mark Brady speaks out on a course he recently took to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, which was designed to protect adults and children from the harmful effects of lead-based paint that can occur during home renovations. You can learn more about the RRP rule here. In the meantime, here's what Brady had to say:

RRP Lead law: April 22nd, 2010, a day that will live in infamy.

Well, well, well, if you ask me, the United States government, through the office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the RRP law, has just declared war on the remodelers and homeowners of America and turned every home or building in America built pre-January 1, 1978, into a clunker. A clunker for which there is no cash. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

At last count, the EPA says that only 20 percent of the contractors who need to take the RRP course (a travesty of a course) have taken it. Along with that, I bet there aren’t even a handful of real estate agents or any homeowners who know this war was declared while they were sleeping. This law can—and will—end your career and reduce the values of pre-1978 homes to less than nothing. The bible they gave us is an inch thick and pales by comparison to the paperwork you'll need to document everyday, on the job, in defense of yourself when they come for you. “Are your papers in order?”

Let me explain: I took the National EPA RRP Course (Repair, Renovation and Painting) in May. It was eight hours long. We were not allowed to ask any questions. They took our pictures holding a damned “mug shot” card in the beginning and we took a graded test at the end.

During the course, you learn what the law says and why. You learn how you will work on your jobs from now on, and you want to cut your wrists on the way home. I am not kidding. They even told us in the first two hours of the course that you’ll want to shoot yourself for probably killing—by poisoning—your own children, your wife and all your customers who live in the houses you’ve remodeled over the years. In the second two hours, you’ll want to throttle the instructor and the eggheads who thought up this law, the penalties and the methods. You tremble at the thought of EPA inspectors “catching you” violating this new law. They start to take on Gestapo-like qualities in your mind’s eye.

However, it was drilled into us (50 contractors were in the room) that the real whistle-blowers will be the pediatricians whose young patients will be suffering from lead poisoning because their parents had work done on their homes recently. And they’ll be bound by law to turn you in. Also blowing whistles will be: disgruntled employees and customers, scared neighbors, your competition, OSHA and the general public when they hear on TV that some law firm can make them rich because they had work done on their home or the home of a loved one, and the contractor maybe didn’t follow protocols to the letter while working there. This will be the big one I’ll bet.

Never heard of this course, this law, the protocols for “lead safe” remodeling? Well, you’d better get hot, people. Because what you don’t know about this law will ruin everything you’ve ever done or you will do. The fines are set up as business/life-ending punishments (a possible $37,500.00 per violation per day), and the jail terms will finish what the fines and the lawyers don’t do to you. And they can catch you years down the road, too—not just on site during the work.

Environmentalists wringing their hands over plastic water bottles and disposable diapers in landfills will die instantly of strokes when they figure out that millions of pounds and miles and miles of polyethylene will be put into the landfills if any homeowner ever dares to take on the cost of remodeling again, or if any fool of a contractor ever dares to work on a pre-1978 house again.

They’ve turned us all into outlaws—contractors and homeowners. I spent $3,000 last week on suits, masks, latex gloves, vacuums, air scrubbers and poly and duct tape, to try to start to comply with this thing and I’ll tell you this, the more I try to figure out how to comply, the more impossible this seems to sustain or even do—or even explain with a straight face! All 50 contractors/craftsman leaving that course were seething and disgusted and forlorn. After 45 years of doing this business, I felt hopeless and helpless and lost.

From April 22, 2010, and on, you’d be a fool to work in a pre-1978 house with the family living there. They can’t even enter the work zone until it’s 100 percent done and certified clean by a graduate of the “Course.” If you’re working outside, all shrubs and bushes and landscaping will have to be removed so you can cover everything within 20 feet with poly, and if it’s even misty or snowy or windy, you can’t work inside or outside. Take the “Course,” read the bible of RRP, and see if you don’t feel the same. God help us all.

—Mark Brady is a Connecticut-based kitchen, bath and master suite designer/remodeler, as well as a master carpenter, with more than 40 years in the industry. He specializes in 18th-, 19th- and 20-century traditional homes and in creating designs that combine Old-World charm with 21st-century technology.
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