Monday, May 24, 2010

Hearing with the Division of Occupational Safety about Massachusetts taking over the RRP Rule

The Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety held a Public Hearing today to take comments on new regulations related to their intent to seek authority in administering and enforcement of the EPA RRP program from the EPA here in Massachusetts.  I was there, along with the Presidents of NARI and the Homebuilders Association of (Western) Massachusetts, Sean McCadden (whose blog I mention frequently), contractors, lead testers and others.

The conversation was thoughtful and informative.  I will report about it over a couple of posts.  First of all, Massachusetts has published emergency regulations to the Central Register that will hopefully become a permanent law within the next few months.  The public was invited to make comments and suggestions regarding changes to the law.

The state is also evaluating whether it will self-certify with the EPA and take over administering the law.  There were about twenty-five people present, and most seemed supportive of the notion that Massachusetts should take over administration of the lead law.

Speakers commented on the current difficulties facing contractors who are forced to educate homeowners about the RRP Rule.  They are concerned about the fact that there is an "underground" population of contractors who are willing to circumvent the rule and charge less money because they offer prices that do not include the lead containment procedures.  In addition, these contractors have not incurred the additional costs involved in certifying their companies and firms with the EPA and becoming certified contractors.

The audience complimented MA on having drafted a well thought-out law that is much clearer than the RRP rule.  The biggest concerns were enforcement and education.  The need for enforcement was emphasized so that the "good" contractors would not be penalized for following the rules by being outbid by "illegal" contractors.  If enough contractors are fined for not following the practices and becoming certified, then this would hopefully serve as a deterrent.  

The need for education is apparent because the lack of publicity regarding the implementation of the rule has resulted in homeowners having no idea that the lead containment procedures are required, and the contractors are faced with educating the homeowners as well as having to charge more for their services.  Homeowners are already asking contractors for an alternative price without the lead-safe practices, which creates unsafe conditions for both the contractors and the homeowners and their families.

These were some of the issues raised at the hearing today.