U.S. EPA requires Bay Area home renovator to protect children from lead-based paint dangers

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined Blue Mountain Air $51,000 for failing to comply with the f ederal Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule when the Vacaville, Calif.-based company renovated foreclosed homes. Specifically, the company failed to obtain an EPA certification, use certified renovators, and comply with other work practice requirements for handling lead-based paint safely.

"Lead-based paint is the main source of lead poisoning for children, which can cause learning disabilities and behavior problems," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "EPA will take enforcement action against companies that operate without the training and certification needed to protect children, families and workers."

Blue Mountain Air, along with Blue Mountain Realty, is a subsidiary of Blue Mountain Inc., owned and operated by Greg S. Owen. In 2011 and 2012, Blue Mountain Air renovated four foreclosed homes in Napa, El Sobrante, and Santa Rosa, Calif. EPA found that the company violated the rule when it:

-- Did not obtain the required EPA firm certification prior to the renovations;

-- Failed to ensure a certified renovator was assigned to the renovations and that all workers were certified renovators or trained by a certified renovator;

--Failed to maintain required records to ensure that warning signs were posted, work areas were contained, and a certified renovator performed post-renovation cleaning verifications.

Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips. When companies fail to follow the lead-safe practices during home renovations, the resulting lead dust and chips can contaminate home surfaces and accumulate to unsafe levels. Activities like eating and playing can move the lead dust from surfaces like floors and window sills into the body, exposing children, families and workers to lead poisoning.

EPA enforces the federal Toxic Substances Control Act and its Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule to protect children from exposure to lead-based paint hazards from renovation and repair activities that can create hazardous lead dust when surfaces with lead-based paint are disturbed. Contractors who disturb painted surfaces in pre-1978 homes and child-occupied facilities must be trained and certified, provide educational materials to residents, and follow safe work practices. The U.S. banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978 but EPA estimates that more than 37 million older homes in the U. S. still have lead-based paint.

Lead exposure is more dangerous to children than adults because children's growing bodies absorb more lead, and their brain and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead, which include: behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, and damage to the brain and nervous system. Children under six years old are at most risk. No level of lead in blood has been identified as safe for children.

Nationwide, more than 100,000 contractors have completed the process to become certified. A single day of training is required to learn about the lead-safe work practices, but many companies continue to operate without training or certification and without regard for the potential harm to children. EPA continues to pursue enforcement against companies that are not certified and uses information from the public to help identify violators.