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Bill to put fines on contractors who don’t clean up lead paint

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama has a law on the process contractors are to use when renovating homes with lead based paint, but there’s no real enforcement mechanism, state officials say.

Senate Bill 158 by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, is pending in the Alabama House in the final days of the session. It would fine contractors up to $5,000 per day for violations of the 1997 Alabama Lead Reduction Act. 

“We have thousands of kids every year in Alabama who have elevated lead levels and if that’s not detected and treated or at least they’re removed from that environment, then they’ll have permanent mental retardation,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said this week. Harris and the Alabama Department of Public Health have pushed this lead act enforcement bill for several years.

“In many cases, those are poorer, African-American children because they tend to live in older housing,” Harris said. “Houses that were built before 1978 are the ones that have lead paint.”

He said over years, the paint turns to dust and “saturates the house.”

Current law says contractors renovating those houses have to do lead abatement, “but there’s no teeth in the law,” Harris said. 

“Unfortunately, we know contractors who (don’t comply with the law) over and over, but they just move on to the next house,” he said.

The bill does not apply to people making renovations in their own homes. 

“This is for contractors who are remodeling older houses,” Harris said.

The fees start at $250 per day for a first offense. 

Jason Reid, regulatory affairs director for the Home Builders Association of Alabama, said the organization is supportive of the bill.

“We want to comply because we understand the dangers of lead in houses,” Reid said. “We just want to make sure the rules are easy to understand.” 

The ADPH is authorized by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the lead program. If the EPA ran it, the fees would be significantly higher, Harris said. 

The bill passed the Senate last week on a 18-8 vote.

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