By Dave Sebastian
Home Depot Inc. is paying $20.75 million in a settlement proposed by U.S. regulators for alleged violations involving lead safety in home renovations, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department said.
The EPA found that the home-improvement company sent uncertified firms to do renovations that required certified firms. The agency investigated five customer complaints in Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin relating to instances where the subcontracted renovation firms in some cases didn't use lead-safe work practices, perform post-renovation cleaning, provide EPA-required lead-based paint pamphlets or maintain appropriate records, it said.
The settlement, which is the highest civil penalty obtained so far under the Toxic Substances Control Act, includes $750,000 to be paid to Utah, $732,000 to Massachusetts and $50,000 to Rhode Island, the EPA and DOJ said.
Contractors hired for renovation, repair and painting projects in homes built before 1978, when residential lead-based paint use was banned, must be certified by the EPA under its Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.
Under the settlement, Home Depot will implement a companywide program to ensure that the firms and contractors it hires are certified to do lead-safe work practices, a measure that would avoid spreading lead dust and paint chips during home renovations, the governmental bodies said.
"These instances do not represent our high standards and expectations," a Home Depot spokeswoman said in an email. "When we found out about this, we moved quickly to contact all customers who might have been impacted and we significantly strengthened our lead safety systems and approach."
Home Depot's compliance measures will include implementing an electronic system that verifies contractors' certifications, requiring contractors to provide a detailed compliance checklist and conducting on-site inspections. If a contractor didn't comply with the EPA requirements, the company will inspect for dust lead hazards and do specialized cleaning, if the hazards are found, the EPA and DOJ said.
"Today's settlement will significantly reduce children's exposure to lead paint hazards," said Susan Bodine, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "EPA expects all renovation companies to ensure their contractors follow these critical laws that protect public health."
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires