By Robert B. Barnett Jr., J.D.
Under a consent decree, the company also will implement a new compliance program.
Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. has agreed to pay $20.75 million in settlement of a claim that it was violating the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) lead paint rules when it used uncertified contractors on renovations of older homes, the EPA has announced. Under a consent decree to settle a suit filed by the EPA, Home Depot also has agreed to implement a corporate-wide program to ensure that contractors hired to perform home repairs are certified and trained to use lead-safe work practices (EPA News Release, December 17, 2020).
"These were serious violations," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The stiff penalty Home Depot will pay reflects the importance of using certified firms and contractors in older home renovations."
The EPA filed suit in Atlanta federal court after discovering that Home Depot was subcontracting work on older homes where the contractors were failing to use lead-safe practices, perform required post-renovation cleaning, provide the EPA-required lead-based paint pamphlets to occupants, or maintain compliance records. "Contractors hired for most work in homes built prior to 1978, when lead based paint was in widespread use, must be certified," Principal Deputy Assistant AG Brightbill said. "These contractors have the training to recognize and prevent the hazards that can be created when lead paint is disturbed."
Home Depot also has agreed to employ a new compliance system that will verify that any contractor hired is properly certified. Home Depot will require its contractors to use a detailed checklist to document compliance and to provide the checklist to the customer. Furthermore, it has agreed to conduct thousands of on-site work inspections to ensure compliance, as well as to respond to customer complaints.
Home Depot said in a press release that it was committed to lead safety and safe work practices for its subcontractors and customers, without mentioning the settlement specifically. It said that it had committed to "a three-pronged approach to lead-safe compliance," which consists of installer requirements, monitoring technology, and customer education.
Residential lead-based paint was banned in 1978, but it remains in many older homes and apartments. Lead dust hazards occur when paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home renovations and remodeling.
Home Depot was alleged to have violated the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (40 C.F.R. Part 745, Subpart E), as well as various parts of Title IV of the Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S.C. §§2682(c), 2686(b), and 2687). In the consent decree, Home Depot admits no liability.
The states of Utah, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island joined the EPA in the suit. From the money that Home Depot will pay, Utah will receive $750,000, Massachusetts will receive $732,000, and Rhode Island will receive $50,000.
The case is No. 1:20-mi-99999-UNA.
Attorneys: Lori M. Beranek, Office of the U.S. Attorney General, for the United States, State of Utah, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Workforce Development and Department of Labor Standards.
Companies: State of Utah; Common wealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Work force Development; Department of Labor Standards; Home Depot U.S.A
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