Friday, October 21, 2016

'Demolition' Loophole In Lead Paint Rules That Regulate Home Renovations Begins To Cause Concern; State Official: “If You Disturb Six Square Feet, These Rules Apply. If You Knock The Whole House Down, Nothing”

In Portland, Oregon, The Portland Mercury reports:
  • IN A YEAR when environmental hazards have screamed across TV news broadcasts with surprising frequency, lead has had a starring role.
    ***
    As home demolitions reach historic levels in Portland, there are no safeguards against lead dust that can be stirred up when older homes are demolished.

    It’s an odd oversight. Federal rules dutifully require safety precautions if those same homes are renovated—rules designed to stop property owners and their neighbors from coming into contact with lead, a neurotoxin for which there is no known safe exposure level.

    But when the home is torn down? The lead can fly unchecked, potentially creating problems for soil and nearby neighbors.

    It is kind of a strange loophole,” says Brett Sherry, a manager of regulatory programs at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), which enforces federal lead safety rules for home remodels. “If you disturb six square feet, these rules apply. If you knock the whole house down, nothing.”

    This loophole has been on regulators’ radar for years. There has even been talk of crafting legislation to correct the gap, and a law to do so will be floated in Salem next year.

    But it’s so far gone completely unaddressed. And that has potential repercussions for every neighborhood in the city, as demolitions eclipse pre-recession levels.

    According to public records obtained by the Mercury, from January 2014 through August 2016, the city fielded applications for nearly 950 demolition permits for homes built in 1977 or before.

    That year is important in the context of lead—1978 is the year the federal government banned lead paint. As the US Environmental Protection Agency puts it: “If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint.”
    ***
    Without any rules in place requiring that lead be addressed, all of these demolitions pose a potential hazard, officials say.

    “If you hire someone to knock down a house, it’s probably someone with larger equipment like a bulldozer,” says Sherry. “They’re not certified. They’re not trained. There could be lead dust that could contaminate the ground. You could contaminate neighboring yards.”
For more, see No One’s Policing Lead Dust in Demolition-Happy Portland (That Has Potential Consequences for Every Neighborhood in the City). epa environmental protection agency

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