NYC Contractor Fined for Lead Paint Violations

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, recently announced that the U.S. had entered into a consent decree resolving a civil lawsuit that it had filed against a New York City contractor, Apex Building Company, for violating lead paint safety regulations.

Apex Building Company agreed to pay $606,706 for failing to comply with safety requirements mandated by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRR) Rule during renovation work on hundreds of apartments between 2015 and 2021.

One Level Deeper: The civil penalty in this case is the second largest civil penalty ever imposed under the RRP Rule and requires. This amount was based on the company’s documented inability to pay the full civil penalty for which it otherwise would be liable.

The TSCA and the RRP Rule impose safety requirements to minimize the risk that young children, tenants, and renovation workers are exposed to toxic lead paint dust during renovations of residential buildings. Exposure to lead paint dust is the most common cause of lead poisoning, which can lead to severe, irreversible health problems, particularly in children.

According to the complaint, Apex conducted renovation work in hundreds of apartment units between 2015 and 2021. In March 2016, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inspected an APEX worksite and found that it had failed to contain lead dust, resulting in dust containing lead-based paint in excess of federal standards entering public hallways, in violation of the RRP Rule. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that Apex also lacked required certifications, failed to train its workers on lead-safe work practices, and failed to inform the building owner and occupants of the risks of lead poisoning during that renovation. When the company was informed of these issues, it provided the EPA with inaccurate information about its RRP Rule compliance. And rather than coming into full compliance with the law, the company continued to violate the RRP Rule through at least 2021.  

Under the consent decree, the company admits and accepts responsibility for its conduct. The company must adhere to safe work practices and RRP Rule requirements going forward, conduct tenant and worker safety information sessions to mitigate potential harm, and face significant additional penalties if it fails to comply with the decree.

One Takeaway: This consent decree follows new lead paint laws that the City Council passed in August. One of the laws involves work that’s currently required during the turnover process. As a result of the new law, the city will require lead-based paint abatement steps, including friction surface removal on doors and windows, to be completed in all applicable dwelling units where a child under the age of 6 resides, by July 1, 2027 [Int. 6-2022].

When you need to perform lead paint abatement work, make sure your remediation company or staff is properly trained and certified in safe-work practices and to contain lead paint dust. The EPA is partnering with state and local partners to crack down on improper renovation work that can expose our kids to toxic lead. According to EPA Regional Administrator Lisa Garcia, Apex’s actions were inexcusable—and they are also all too common.