A national homebuilder group contends that most contractors are unprepared for new federal lead paint rules, but Wisconsin officials say the standards will take effect in the state April 22 as planned.
The new rules require builders to be trained, gain government permits and follow special abatement practices on projects that disturb paint in houses built before 1978.
The National Association of Home Builders on April 5 petitioned for a delay of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of the rules but has not received a response, said Matt Watkins, NAHB environmental policy analyst.
Dale Kemery, EPA spokesman, was unavailable for comment before deadline Wednesday.
The EPA estimated that about 150,000 U.S. workers have been trained, which is a requirement under the lead rules, said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center of Health Housing. The EPA has set a goal of training 230,000 people by the end of 2011, she said.
“I think that there has been sufficient time,” Morley said, “and I think that’s why we’ve seen those numbers.”
But the fact that not everybody is trained is proof that builders were not adequately notified, Watkins said.
“I got calls this morning from folks who are just hearing about the lead rule itself,” he said, “so I think the message out to the regulated community has been lacking.”
Wisconsin will not delay implementation regardless of what the EPA does, said Shelley Bruce, asbestos and lead certification supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. A delay would only slow the construction industry’s efforts to take training classes and apply for certification, she said.
“Every new rule has a buy-in period and a learning curve attached to it,” she said. “I don’t think delaying and continuing delays does much to get people going.”
Bruce said that by Tuesday night, her office had certified 1,001 people to remove lead paint and received at least 1,500 certification applications from people and companies. By counting the number of contractors and workers registered with the state who work in houses, she estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 Wisconsin workers and businesses must be trained and certified.
Beyond training, the rules require builders to wear respiratory gear and use plastic sheeting to set up tents around areas where lead paint is disturbed.
Bruce said she wants to get state inspectors out in the field as soon as possible after April 22. When companies or workers are found without certification, they will be given a deadline to train and apply for a state certificate, she said. Inspectors will not require anything if the workers already applied for certification but DHS has not yet processed the application, she said.
Bruce said she was originally thinking about giving companies 60 days to complete training, but that may not be enough time.
“Knowing how full the courses are, I’m maybe rethinking,” she said, “and I think that 90 days may be more appropriate.”