If so, you might just be living in what the EPA will, as of April 22nd, consider a toxic waste dump.
Say goodbye to simple renovation projects and your beloved architectural antiques, lawmakers are at it again, making you “safer”.
Yes, yes, I know. I’m being a little sarcastic here, but between the CPSIA, the new Food Safety Bills and now this, ill-thought-out bills touted as public safety imperatives are getting a little tiresome. What am I talking about now? Well…
I saw a little blurb on TreeHugger this morning about the passage of an EPA bill last year that I’d never even heard of, but since we’re in the middle of two different renovation projects, this story surely did catch my eye. I followed their source, and according to the GreenPreservationist, who actually took the EPA’s course:
If there is existing lead paint on stock materials, they may well have to go bye-bye and into a hazardous waste landfill… Also, any time a contractor is hired to do work–even minor things like window removal and adjustment, they will have to be certified as someone who practices Lead safe practices and may well have to quarantine themselves into the room that they are working on, wear a full body plastic suit, mask, goggles, two layers of gloves…the whole bit. For real.
Ok, well at first I wasn’t sure wearing a plastic suit sounded all that horrible if you were ripping out walls and sanding 50 year old doors, after all I DID spend a couple years of my life sick as a dog from painting and the related chemicals. But it seemed like there had to be more to it, so I started digging around the documents she linked. I mean, what about DIYers? What about all that gorgeous architectural salvage that I love so much? What about the doors I rescued from a 1936era house about to be torn down? What about the 5″ thick baseboards I’ve been carefully sanding down for re-use? What about the real plaster walls in the house next door?
Well, the answers (when I can find them) seem to be a mixed bag. First, home renovators seem to be off the radar, which is good. However, anything requiring a contractor looks like it’s going to get an awful lot more complicated, and potentially see the cost skyrocket.
From the new regulations:
after April 22, 2010, federal law will require you to be certified and to use lead-safe work practices. To become certified, renovation contractors must submit an application and fee payment to EPA.
There are also training courses that must be taken, certifications that must be obtained, and mounds of paperwork that must be kept for three years for each project. There’s a 7 page flow chart in that PDF if you really want to make yourself crazy. One extra little surprise is that landlords are apparently required to abide by these same contractor regulations. (Oh. Joy. Seriously???) Oh, and even simple repainting is not exempt… not if you have to sand, scrape or spackle.
The rest of the bad news looks like it all comes flying in where materials are concerned. Preserved materials are already difficult enough to find, and I think this is going to put an even bigger premium on those that exist.
According to one city’s research into increasing the use of salvage materials through groups such as Habitat for Humanity and their Re-Store:
(an) EPA rule states that all architectural components with deteriorated lead based paint must be disposed of or thoroughly de-leaded. However, the rule does not give any criteria for “deterioration,” which makes the salvage industry hesitant to salvage anything with lead paint, since they are liable for damages under the rule. Furthermore, de-leading most architectural components is more expensive than disposing of them in landfills. The new rule could lead to more disposal and limit reuse or even recycling of building materials that contain lead paint.
Much like the GreenPreservationist, I really worry that people will choose to tear down and throw away instead of repair or preserve, simply because the liability of saving materials is going to be prohibitive. I also worry that buildings will not be taken care of properly, because to do so will run afoul of all these new requirements. Better to not replace your drafty windows than to have to hire a contractor for 3 times the price and effort.
I can’t help but wonder who was behind this bill, and if the people who passed it actually gave any intelligent thought to these matters. It sounds like just another knee-jerk reaction which will do little to actually solve any real problem, and make it much harder for the little guy to go about his business.