According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, Lowe's has agreed to settle its lead paint case for $500,000 and to implement a new compliance program at all 1,700+ locations nationwide.
The settlement is a response to an EPA investigation that found that Lowe's lacked the documentation to prove it had abided by the agency's regulations when hiring contractors in nine states or using EPA-approved lead paint testing kits. The EPA was originally tipped off by comments and complaints from the public.
“Today’s settlement sends a clear message to all contractors and the firms they hire: Get lead certified and comply with the law to protect children from exposure to dangerous lead dust,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Lowe's is taking responsibility for the actions of the firms it hires, and EPA expects other contractors to do the same.”
The new compliance program would help ensure that the contractors Lowe's hires are trained to minimize lead dust during home improvement projects.
The $500,000 penalty is also the largest ever when it comes to violations of the federal Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, according to the EPA.
Lowe's is hardly the only company to experience grief over lead paint as of late: Sherwin-Williams, as well as ConAgra Grocery Products and NL Industries, must pay $1.1 billion to 10 California cities and counties as part of a lead removal program involving millions of old homes. According to the judge involved in the decision, the companies knowingly sold paint containing harmful ingredients.
Reform of the EPA's lead paint rules are one of the legislative priorities of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers' Association, which supports efforts to make the rules more reasonable and less onerous for remodelers, contractors and homeowners.