WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with Sears Home Improvement Products Inc. that resolves alleged violations of the federal Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule for work performed by Sears’ contractors during home renovation projects across the country. Under the settlement, Sears will implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work are properly certified and follow required procedures to prevent exposure to lead dust from home renovation activities. Sears will also pay a $400,000 civil penalty.
“This settlement will help prevent children and workers’ exposure to lead during home renovations in communities across the United States by ensuring that Sears’ contractors are fully aware of their obligations under lead safety regulations,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Sears is required to implement system wide changes across the corporation which will provide additional protection for consumers and bring the company into compliance with the law.”
“Today’s settlement will have a widespread impact across the home improvement industry, significantly reducing exposure to lead paint dust among children and vulnerable citizens,” said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “In order to contract with Sears, a worker must follow lead safe practices. Contractors will carry this certification to every job they do. EPA expects all renovation companies to ensure their contractors follow these critical laws that protect public health.”
EPA discovered the alleged violations through a review of Sears’ records from projects performed by the company’s renovation contractors at numerous projects in cities across California and in Georgia, Minnesota, Nevada, New York and Wisconsin.
The government also alleged that Sears failed to establish, retain, or provide compliance documentation showing that specific contractors had been certified by EPA, had been properly trained, had used lead-safe work practices, or had performed required post-renovation cleaning.
Under the settlement, Sears will implement a company-wide program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work for its customers comply with the RRP Rule during renovations of any child-occupied facilities, such as day-care centers and pre-schools and any housing that was built before 1978. For these projects, Sears must contract with only EPA-certified and state-certified firms and renovators, ensure they maintain certification and ensure they use lead safe work practices checklists during renovations.
Sears will also add a link on its website to EPA’s content on lead-safe work practices and use a company-wide system to actively track the RRP firm and renovator certifications of its contractors. In addition, Sears must suspend any contractor that is not operating in compliance with the RRP Rule, investigate all reports of potential noncompliance and ensure that any violations are corrected and reported to EPA.
EPA reached a similar settlement with home improvement retailer Lowe’s Home Centers in 2014 requiring the company to implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide compliance program at its over 1,700 stores nationwide to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work minimize lead dust from home renovation activities.
The RRP Rule, which is a part of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, is intended to ensure that owners and occupants of housing built before 1978, as well as any child-occupied facilities, receive information on lead-based paint hazards before renovations begin, that individuals performing such renovations are properly trained and certified by EPA and follow specific work practices to reduce the potential for lead-based paint exposure. Home improvement companies such as Sears that contract with renovators to perform renovation work for their customers must ensure that those contractors comply with all of the requirements of the RRP Rule.
Lead-based paint was banned in 1978 but still remains in many homes and apartments across the country. Lead dust hazards can occur when lead paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home renovation and remodeling activities. Lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing. A blood lead test is the only way to determine if a child has a high lead level. Parents who think their child has been in contact with lead dust should contact their child’s health care provider.
Renovation firms that are certified under EPA’s RRP Rule are encouraged to display EPA’s “Lead-Safe” logo on worker’s uniforms, signs, websites and other material, as appropriate. Consumers can protect themselves by looking for the logo before hiring a renovation firm. Consumers can learn more about the RRP Rule and hiring a certified firm by calling the National Lead Information Center at 1 (800) 424-LEAD or visiting www.epa.gov/lead.
Sears Home Improvement Products is part of the Sears Home Services division, within Sears Holdings Corporation. The Home Services division makes over 12 million service and installation calls annually through a network of 6,700 technicians and Sears’ 705 retail stores in the United States. Sears Home Improvement Products is headquartered in Longwood, Florida, does business in 45 states, and maintains 58 district offices.
The consent decree was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Court of Illinois. Notice of the lodging of the consent decree will appear in the Federal Register allowing for a 30-day public comment period before the consent decree can be entered by the court as final judgment. To view the consent decree: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
More information about EPA’s enforcement of the RRP Rule: www.epa.gov/lead/enforcing-lead-laws-and-regulations
Violations of the lead-based paint RRP Rule regulations can be reported to EPA: www.epa.gov/enforcement/report-environmental-violations