Protecting San Diegans from hazardous material in home renovation

Posted at 5:28 PM, Mar 26, 2018

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - With home prices skyrocketing San Diegans are turning to remodeling.

However, if the home has lead paint or asbestos, it can become a health hazard if not handled correctly. The Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on companies breaking the rules.

The agency has taken action against six companies in Arizona and California for allegedly violating regulations requiring them to protect the public from exposure to lead. The companies paid a combined $287,000 in penalties.

According to the EPA, "an inspection found that, between 2014 and 2015, Renovation Realty performed renovation work at six homes in San Diego and Santee without being EPA-certified to perform work in pre-1978 housing where lead-based paint is assumed to be present." 

The agency says the company also failed to keep records indicating compliance with lead-safe work practices and did not ensure a certified renovator was involved as required.

"Looking back at it, it was a painful expensive experience to get fined by the EPA" said Keith Christian CEO of Renovation Realty.

Christian said, at the time, they didn't understand the EPA's requirements of how much square footage you can disturb per room.

"We got fined, we paid the fine, we all went to a class we got certified as a company our supervisors got certified and it's been a great experience,” Christian said. “So now that we understand the process we incorporated that into our renovation.”

Across the county from October 2016 through September 2017, the EPA finalized 121 civil settlements for alleged violations of at least one of the lead-based paint rules. The settlements they obtained in the cases soared past one million dollars. The EPA requires companies who perform abatement projects in pre-1978 homes to be certified and follow specific work practices.

“For a homeowner, the biggest thing is their liability,” said Tim Tilley with Superior Abatement Services Inc. “If they hire a contractor who doesn’t follow the rules, the regulatory agencies will generally cite everyone in the food chain.”

Tilley removes hazardous material like lead and asbestos for a living. His team is currently working on a San Diego home that tested negative for lead but positive for asbestos.

Tilley tells 10News rules put in place at the federal level down to the local level are there to protect employees and consumers.

"For a homeowner, it's really important to ask the right questions,” said Gregg Cantor with Murray Lampert Design - Build – Remodel.

Cantor says consumers should know if the contractor is licensed and certified and trained to perform hazardous materials work.

Consumers also want to ask about types of safety methods they use, digging into specific safety precautions before, during and after the work is done. You should know what dangers you're dealing with before demolition begins.

Renovation Realty is now certified with the EPA, and that extra step is helping business.

"We’ve finished about 490 homes since we were certified in September 2015, and we’ve actually received contracts because we’re EPA certified,” Christian said.

Click here to learn more about reducing childhood lead exposure, or to learn more about the harmful effects of asbestos, click here.