Five Changes to Expect from the July 15 Ruling

As we anticipate tomorrow's EPA ruling on Clearance Testing, the most important thing to keep in mind is the difference between Visual Inspection (think the verification card) and achieving Clearance (lab verified dust quantities below the require standards).

It is not easy deciphering anything written by the government in general, and the EPA specifically, and the proposed changes to the RRP Final Rule, laid out in detail in the May 6, 2011 edition of the Federal Register are no exception. We have tried to summarize what we interpret from this document as the proposed changes.

As we understand, if the basic ruling goes into effect, it will only affect a few jobs — window replacement, use of a heat gun, scraping 60 sq. ft or more and removal of more than 40 sq. ft of molding, trim, cabinets, etc.  If you engage in any of these renovation activities, you will need to take a dust sample to confirm the visual clearance with the card, and have it confirmed in an EPA-certified laboratory.

It is "Basic RRP 101" with the addition of a dust wipe. An employee with proper certification can do the dust-wipe test as long as it is not an employee who did the visual inspection or the work.

There are the exceptions to this rule that will cause the most grief. Any job that fails the second wipe test of visual clearance, or those renovations that use power equipment to sand or grind causing large amounts of dust will need to achieve “clearance”. This is where certified lead inspectors, and risk assessors take over visual and dust sampling clearance tasks, and the requirements look more like abatement than RRP.

There is more than just dust wipe sampling and verification versus clearance. There are five changes being considered:

  1. Dust wipe sampling for a few renovations to confirm, not replace cleaning verification (visual clearance)
  2. Dust wipe sampling for all other renovations that fail the second cleaning verification (visual clearance)
  3. Full Clearance Sampling for two renovations – sanding and power scraping
  4. Multi-housing procedures to randomly select units for dust sampling
  5. Reporting requirements for these additional tests

1.  Dust Wipe Sampling as confirmation for Cleaning Verification
This is the easiest and simplest sampling requirement. The July 15 announcement will focus on the requirement that dust wipe testing be performed after many renovation jobs — but not all. EPA has determined that dust wipe testing results will provide a valuable check on the performance of cleaning verification and the other work practices for most of the paint-disturbing renovations.

Accordingly, the proposal rulings could require dust wipe testing on uncarpeted floors, windowsills, and window troughs in the work area after the following types of interior renovations: (Note the term “uncarpeted floors”. HEPA vacuuming eliminates the floors from sampling).

  • Use of a heat gun at temperatures below 1100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Removal or replacement of window or door-frames.
  • Scraping 60 sqft or more of painted surfaces.
  • Removing more than 40 sqft of trim, molding, cabinets, or other fixtures.

2.  Dust Wipe Sampling after failing second Visual Clearance
The July 15 announcement could also require dust sampling in all situations (not just the 4 above) where a surface fails the cleaning verification process twice, i.e., when the second wet disposable cleaning cloth is darker than the cleaning verification card. In that case, the surface must be allowed to dry for at least an hour, after which the certified renovator must wipe the surface with a dry electrostatic cleaning cloth.

This condition becomes tougher. The dust wipe testing would have to be performed in a manner similar to the abatement clearance sampling requirements, requiring a certified inspector, certified risk assessor, or certified dust sampling technician to perform a visual inspection to ensure that the work area is free of visible dust, debris or residue. This second visual inspection, in addition to the one performed by the certified renovator before cleaning verification, is being considered because, in many cases, the person performing the dust wipe testing will not be the same person who performed the cleaning verification. In addition, there may be a delay between the completion of cleaning verification and the beginning of dust wipe testing.

3. Two renovations to require Mandatory Clearance
EPA will rule on requiring full Lead Clearance for two projects. Full Clearance is strict. It mimics full abatement in that the building must remain unoccupied until the “all clear” is announced, so to speak. For two types of renovations that can create large amounts of difficult-to-clean dust, EPA remains concerned about the possibility that dust lead levels remaining, even after cleaning verification, still may substantially exceed the clearance standards.  EPA is proposing to require renovation firms to follow a clearance process similar to that performed after abatement projects after renovations involving the disturbance of paint using machines designed to remove paint through high speed operation or the demolition, or removal, through destructive means, of more than 6 sqft of plaster and lath building component. After the cleaning, and the cleaning verification, dust wipe testing would have to be performed.

If any of the test results equal or exceed the regulatory clearance standards, the renovation firm would be required to re-clean the surfaces represented by those tests. Those surfaces would have to be re-tested, and the results compared to the clearance standards.  This proposal would not allow renovation firms to skip the cleaning verification step when they are required to perform clearance.

4.  Sampling in Multi-Unit Buildings
This proposal can be a time saver. Rather than have to test each unit renovated, the July 15 ruling may call for random clearance sampling in multi-unit buildings. This would permit random testing of individual housing units after renovations affecting multiple individual housing units in a multi-family dwelling with similarly constructed and maintained residences.

The certified renovators and other trained persons who renovate or clean the individual housing units would not know in advance which units would be selected for random testing. In addition, the dust wipe testing would have to be performed by a certified inspector or certified risk assessor and the number of residential units selected for dust wipe testing would have to be sufficient to provide a 95 percent level of confidence such that, if clearance were required, no more than 5 percent or 50 of the residential units (whichever is smaller) in the randomly-sampled population would exceed the applicable clearance levels.

5.  Reporting Requirements
In most situations, the renovation firm will only be required to provide the dust wipe testing results to the building owners and occupants. In these simple cases where sampling verifies visual clearance, the occupants can move back in as long as the report is delivered within 3 days.

For those renovations that require achieving clearance (test confirmed levels below standards) such as renovation that failed the second visual or the two using power sanding, etc., the renovation would not be considered complete, and the warning signs would have to remain in place, until the renovation firm can demonstrate through a dust wipe testing report that it has met the clearance standards. The certified inspector, certified risk assessor, or certified dust sampling technician performing the sampling or testing would be required to prepare a clearance report.

The renovation firm would be required to provide this report to the owner of renovated target housing or child-occupied facilities within 3 days of the date that the renovation firm receives the report. The renovation firm would also have to provide the report within 3 days of receipt to the occupants of individual housing units that have been renovated, if the housing units are not owner-occupied.

Again, like most of RRP, accurate and complete records are the best pathways to compliance. This proposal confirms that the EPA is interested in being assured that the steps were followed.