Lowe’s to pay record penalty in lead pollution settlement

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s Home Centers has agreed to pay $500,000 and implement a new compliance program to settle allegations that it did not properly ensure that its contractors followed lead pollution laws, federal officials said Thursday.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice said some contractors that Lowe’s hired to do home renovation projects did not follow proper recordkeeping standards laid out in the EPA’s rules regarding lead renovation, repair and painting (RRP).

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The civil penalty is the largest ever related to the RRP rule, which applies to work completed in older homes and facilities occupied by young children, the agency said. The rule first took effect in 2008.

“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,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s enforcement office, said in a statement. “Lowe’s is taking responsibility for the actions of the firms it hires, and EPA expects other contractors to do the same.”

EPA investigators discovered the violations from investigating a sampling of the more than 1,700 stores Lowe’s operates. Lowe’s did not provide documentation that contractors had been certified and trained in lead-safe work practices, nor that they followed those practices.

Lowe’s spokeswoman Amanda Manna said the company complied fully with the EPA’s investigation and has resolved all of the issues.

None of the issues the agency discovered resulted in any known lead-related health problems, she said.

“Lowe’s hires thousands of independent, third-party contractors and the EPA identified only a few who failed to meet certain recordkeeping or work practice requirements regarding lead-based paint.”