Lead Pipes, Paint, and Dust; Update on Federal Activities

April 13, 2018

Recent meetings and calls for action at the federal level indicate that the Trump Administration is mounting a coordinated and collaborative approach to target all sources of lead exposure.  There are a slew of regulatory developments focused primarily on re-evaluating, clarifying, and potentially expanding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current program that addresses lead paint hazards – the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) program.  In addition, federal agencies are considering other sources of lead exposure, including drinking water and soil.  Following is an update on federal activities related to lead pipes, paint, and dust.

  • AGC and other real estate/development groups meet with EPA on April 9 to discuss lead-based paint regulatory developments and, more specifically, EPA’s focus on further reducing childhood lead exposure.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently convened an interagency meeting with representatives from at least a dozen federal agencies to work on a joint strategy: a 2018 EPA priority.  
  • Lead related projects also get top priority in EPA’s recent notice about available WIFIA (Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) funding.  There is as much as $5.5 Billion in loans available – but prospective borrowers must submit letters of interest to EPA by noon on July 6, 2018.  In letters to state governors, Pruitt stated he is “placing the highest priority on projects that keep lead and other contaminants out of drinking water and update our nation’s aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.” 
  • The Office of Inspector General will be evaluating EPA’s Lead RRP (Renovation, Repair & Painting) program that is currently “on the books” while the agency remains under court order to update its lead dust hazard standard (i.e., what constitutes a dangerous level of exposure) for floors and window sills in housing and child-occupied facilities.  The 9th Circuit just granted the agency’s motion for more time -- until June 26 -- to issue that proposed rule.  As part of the rulemaking, EPA also is reviewing the regulatory definition of lead-based paint under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  • EPA itself is reexamining the Lead RRP rule, as well, under Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act – to assess the impact on small entities and consider, among other things, whether the rule overlaps or duplicates with other federal rules.  A report is due out by the end of April 2018. 
  • In a separate matter, EPA is more than a year past another court deadline (in a different lawsuit) to determine if it must regulate lead-based paint in public and commercial (P&C) buildings.  A “no hazard” determination would conclude further rulemaking action under the Lead RRP rule. The agency told AGC that it continues to collect survey data and the rulemaking effort is on a “long-term” schedule. 
  • In March 2018, EPA announced six lead-paint enforcement actions in CA and AZ.
  • In related news, EPA recently refined how its Lead RRP rule applies to whole-house rehabilitation jobs and in disaster situations – click here to read EPA’s FAQ.
  • Last summer, the federal government updated its real estate disclosure booklet “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” to expand the information provided on lead in drinking water from a few lines to a full page. Since 1996, when someone rents or buys a home built before 1978, the property owner or landlord is required to provide them with a copy of this booklet. Notably, the updated booklet removes the statement that “paint, dust and soil are the most common sources of lead.”

EPA’s federal Lead RRP program requires that when contractors are doing any construction work in houses or child-occupied facilities built before 1978 that could disturb lead paint, they must determine whether lead paint is present (or presume it is).  When the test is positive, they must use certain practices to contain the spread of lead dust while they perform the remodel.  The company doing the work and the renovators following the lead-safe work practices both must be certified by EPA (or an EPA-authorized state). More than a dozen states have received EPA approval to carry out their own programs in lieu of the federal program – click here

EPA operates a similar regulatory framework for those engaged in lead abatements, risk assessments and inspections.  Note that EPA regulates lead-based activities (i.e., abatement – which is the permanent elimination of lead-based paint hazards) differently than renovation, repair and painting (RRP) jobs, even though, in some cases, the activities are similar. 

For more information, please contact Leah Pilconis at

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