Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC Settlement

(WASHINGTON - April 17, 2014) – Lowe’s Home Centers, one of the nation’s largest home improvement retailers, has agreed to implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide compliance program at its over 1,700 stores nationwide to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work minimize lead dust from home renovation activities, as required by the federal Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today. The company will also pay a $500,000 civil penalty, which is the largest ever for violations of the RRP Rule.

Company Overview

Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC is a home improvement retailer that offers to perform renovations for its customers through hiring local contractors. Lowe’s operates more than 1,700 stores in the United States and it serves approximately 15 million customers each week and employs more than 260,000 people.

The proposed settlement resolves alleged violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and the Lead RRP Rule (40 C.F.R. Part 745, Subpart E).

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The government complaint alleges that Lowe’s failed to provide documentation showing that the contractors it hires to perform renovation projects for Lowe’s customers had been certified by EPA, had been properly trained, had used lead-safe work practices, or had correctly used EPA-approved lead test kits at renovation sites. EPA’s investigation showed that at three homes located in Alton, IL, Trotwood, OH, and Kent OH, Lowe’s contractors failed to ensure that work areas had been properly contained during renovations and cleaned up after renovations.

EPA discovered the violations through a review of records initially prompted by tips and complaints submitted by the public. Specific violations documented at specific stores are described below:

Recordkeeping violations:

  • 40 C.F.R. § 745.84(a)(1):  Renovations in dwelling units:  “No more than 60 days before beginning renovation activities in any residential dwelling unit of target housing, the firm performing the renovation must (i) obtain, from the owner, a written acknowledgment that the owner has received the pamphlet or ii) obtain a certificate of mailing at least 7 days prior to the renovation.”
  • 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(1)(ii):  Records or reports certifying that a determination had been made that lead-based paint was not present on the components affected by the renovation as described in § 745.82(a).  These records or reports include: Records prepared by a certified renovation after using EPA-recognized test kits, including an identification of the manufacturer and model of any test kits used, a description of the components that were tested including their locations, and the result of each test kit used.  
  • 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6):  Documentation of compliance with the requirements of § 745.85, including documentation that a certified renovator was assigned to the project, that the certified renovator provided on-the-job training for workers used on the project, that the certified renovator performed or directed workers who performed all of the tasks described in § 745.85(a), and that the certified renovator performed the post-renovation cleaning verification described in § 745.85(b).
  • 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6)(i):  Documentation that training was provided to workers (topics must be identified for each worker).
  • 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6)(v):  The work area was contained by (A) Removing or covering all objects in the work area (interiors); (B) Closing and covering all HVAC ducts in the work area (interiors); (C) Closing all windows in the work area (interiors) or closing all windows in and within 20 feet of the work area (exteriors); (D) Closing and sealing all doors in the work area (interiors) or closing and sealing all doors in and within 20 feet of the work area (exteriors);  (E) Covering doors in the work area that were being used to allow passage but prevent spread of dust; (F) (regarding covering floor surfaces, and protecting exteriors); and (G) installing (if necessary) vertical containment to prevent migration of dust and debris to adjacent property (exteriors).
  • 40 C.F.R. § 745.86(b)(6)(viii):  The certified renovator performed the post-renovation cleaning verification (the results of which must be briefly described, including the number of wet and dry cloths used)

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Work practice violations:

  • 40 C.F.R. § 745.85(a)(2)(ii)(C):  Cover the ground with plastic sheeting or other disposable impermeable material extending 10 feet beyond the perimeter of surfaces undergoing renovation or a sufficient distance to collect falling paint debris, whichever is greater, unless the property line prevents 10 feet of such ground covering.  Ground containment measures may stop at the edge of the vertical barrier when using a vertical containment system.
  • 40 C.F.R. § 745.85(a)(5):  Cleaning the work area. After the renovation has been completed, the firm must clean the work area until no dust, debris or residue remains.

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Actions Required by Settlement

Lowe’s has agreed to implement the following specific compliance requirements at all of its over 1,700 stores nationwide to ensure the company and the contractors it hires to perform renovation work for Lowe’s customers are following the RRP Rule, including:

  • Lowe’s will maintain RRP Firm Certification
  • Lowe’s will continue delivering the lead hazard pamphlet to potential customers and will ensure its contractors retain a record that the contractor delivered the pamphlet to the occupants of the renovated properties
  • Lowe’s will add a link on its website to EPA’s website for lead-safe work practices
  • Lowe’s will revise its customer intake system to advise each potential customer about its contractor’s use of a checklist that the customer can request upon completion of project
  • Lowe’s will use only RRP Certified Firms and Certified Renovators for renovations of housing built before 1978 and renovations of any child-occupied facilities, including day-care centers and preschools.
  • Lowe’s will suspend any contractors with expired RRP certifications
  • Lowe’s will suspend contractors if Lowe’s determines the contractor is not in compliance with RRP rule
  • Each contractor is required to use, and certify that it has used, Lowe’s enhanced Installer Renovation Recordkeeping Checklist
    • Lowe’s will verify receipt of the Checklist prior to paying the contractors
    • Lowe’s will commence an inquiry into all notices it receives regarding alleged noncompliance with lead safe work practices by its contractors and shall have a Certified Firm and/or Certified Renovator certify that the area has been cleaned as set forth in 40 C.F.R. § 745.85(b).
  • Lowe’s will submit periodic reports quarterly for the first year, then bi-annually after that.

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The settlement requires that Lowe’s pay a civil penalty of $500,000 within 30 days of when the Consent Decree is entered by the court.

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Human Health and Environmental Concerns

EPA enforces the RRP rule and other lead rules to protect children and others, such as pregnant women, who are more vulnerable to lead poisoning as a result of exposure to lead dust.

Lead exposure affects the nervous system and can cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death.  Children six years old and younger are most at risk.  Even low levels of lead in children’s blood can be harmful. If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system;
  • Behavior and learning problems, such as hyperactivity;
  • Slowed growth;
  • Hearing problems;
  • Headaches;
  • Anemia; and/or
  • In rare cases of acute lead poisoning from ingestion of lead, seizures, coma and even death.

Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium.  During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium is used to help form the bones of the fetus.  This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium.  Lead can also be easily circulated from the mother’s blood stream through the placenta to the fetus.  Mothers with high levels of lead in their bodies can expose their developing fetuses, resulting in serious and developmental problems including:

  • Miscarriages;
  • Premature births or low birth weight;
  • Brain damage, decreased mental abilities and learning difficulties; and/or
  • Reduced growth in young children.

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Pollutant Reductions

This settlement is expected to increase awareness of the RRP Rule requirements among the public and regulated community, which may contribute to a significant reduction in lead exposure.

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Program Contact Information

Morgan Rog, Attorney
(202) 564-7109

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