Lowe's will pay lead-paint fine after Idaho violations, EPA says

A national settlement followed the discovery of violations at three Idaho stores and 10 elsewhere in the U.S., the EPA says.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESSApril 19, 2014 

0419 biz Lowe's.JPG

This Boise Lowe's store is at 7990 W. Overland Road. Federal regulators say record checks also turned up violations of lead-paint safety rules by contractors affiliated with stores at 1400 Nampa-Caldwell Blvd. in Nampa and in Idaho Falls.

DAVID STAATS — dstaats@idahostatesman.com

Lowe's Home Centers will pay a $500,000 federal penalty in settling claims that contractors in Idaho and at least eight other states broke environmental rules for addressing lead paint dust during home renovation projects, two federal agencies said.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it discovered the violations through a review of records from projects performed by renovators working under contract for stores, including those in Boise, Nampa and Idaho Falls.

As part of the deal announced by the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency, the North Carolina-based home improvement retailer also pledged to adopt a compliance program for dealing with lead paint during the renovation programs offered through its more than 1,700 stores.

The Justice Department's complaint and brokered deal with Lowe's, filed Thursday in federal court in East St. Louis, Ill., accused an unspecified number of Lowe's contractors of not following an EPA rule requiring them to use "lead-safe" practices when working on homes, day care centers and schools built before 1978. That was the year lead paint was banned for residential use because of health risks.

The lawsuit also claimed that contractors failed to adequately complete paperwork showing adherence to safe practices in dealing with lead paint in homes being renovated or repaired, and that the company failed to document that its contractors were properly trained or certified.

Lead paint can be especially harmful to children, given that high levels of exposure while their nervous systems are still developing can subject them to possible behavioral disorders and learning disabilities if not detected early. Lead exposure also can cause reproductive problems, high blood pressure, nervous disorders and memory problems in adults, as well as seizures and sometimes death.

The $500,000 civil penalty agreed to by Lowe's is the biggest for violations of the federal Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, the Justice Department said.

The deal will undergo a public comment period, then be considered for approval by a federal judge.

"Today's settlement sends a clear message to all contractors and the firms they hire: Get lead certified and comply with the law to protect children from exposure to dangerous lead dust," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Lowe's is taking responsibility for the actions of the firms it hires, and EPA expects other contractors to do the same."

A Lowe's spokeswoman said the company cooperated with the EPA and resolved all issues the agency alleged. Amanda Manna added that Lowe's, among the nation's biggest home improvement retailers where homeowners can contract for home projects, also said the contractors in question are a sliver of the thousands the company hires.

No project by a Lowe's contractor dealing with lead-based paint has been shown to have posed health issues, Manna said.

The EPA said the review was spurred by consumer tips and complaints. Violations also were found at certain Lowe's stores in Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Vermont.

The Idaho Statesman contributed.

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