Needless to say, even though I had to shuffle some jobs around, I managed to make it to the Alabama’s Public Comment Meeting today. I had emailed all the Certified Firms in Alabama (12 currently) and two of them actually showed up (Champion Windows of Birmingham and Huntsville). John from the Alabama Homebuilders Association was there, along with three individuals from the Health Department and Liz Wilde from the EPA. The Attorney General’s office sent two representatives to the meeting also which was recorded.
The State Health Department got their turn to go first, and they talked about why they were doing this and their thought process. I was next on the agenda, and went over everything in the prior article on the Alabama RRP issues and recommended that they should wait at least 6 months to a year to let the EPA get the bugs worked out (upcoming lawsuits, issues, etc…). Liz from the EPA happened to arrive about halfway through my section as she had been stuck in the construction traffic between Atlanta & Montgomery. After I was done, both the gentlemen from Champion Windows went next and were primarily concerned with the requirement for a “lead abatement contractor” be used on any surface that tests positive for lead (contrary to the EPA’s regulation). John from the ALHBA declined to comment and said that theirs would be in writing. Liz finished off talking about why the EPA thinks this is a good idea, etc… The three gentlemen from the Health Department got to ask a few final questions, and then everyone was asked if they felt they were able to address their concerns. They reminded us that any other written comments, etc… was due by April 2nd and the “recorded” public comment period was over.
Before the meeting had officially started, the State Health Department handed out a brochure that they plan to get the word out. The brochure is meant to inform contractors on the new EPA regulation. The funny part is that is all it does, they don’t mention their program at all, but direct everyone to the EPA’s site, until you hit the back “address” page, where it simply states “For State Specific Requirements Contact”.
Liz was surprised that not more people did not know about the requirements. She kept bringing up that they had been in contact with NARI, NAHB, and other “National” Organizations since 2006. Now seeing that they did not release everything until October of 2009 did not seem to faze her or many of the other items we pointed out, but hearing that the “combined” numbers of the organizations might equal only 15% of the totals seemed to sink in a little.
She also feels that they have done a great job “educating” everyone as they hired a marketing firm, produced one flyer, and talked to all these “National” organizations. Part of their on-going education strategy follows the typical government model that has been used by the ADA, OSHA, and others. The EPA intends to make some high profile big statements in the early days to help get the word out, so be forewarned. The ALHBA, AL Dept. of Health & the EPA also highly recommend that contractors turn in non-compliant contractors as they are taking food off our table.
A few other quick items, the EPA is currently hiring more inspectors to augment the office staff. Commercial buildings will soon fall under this regulation also due to the lawsuit settlement. They are also not anticipating any delays on the 4.22 implementation. To her knowledge, the LeadCheck swabs are valid on drywall and plaster contrary to everyone’s training as they were approved for use. She is supposed to get back to us on that issue. The state’s that do take over the program are looking at getting grant money from the EPA for the Lead enforcement. Of course, that money is based on how many firms paid in to be certified from the EPA and no longer are required to be monitored by them.
Overall, it was an interesting meeting. I have the feeling that the Health Department is still going to push through their program, but they are definitely going to work on the abatement issue. I can honestly say it appears that they listened and seemed to appreciate the feedback. Personally, I think they really need to wait a bit and redo the whole proposal, but I am just a contractor. It also appears that the ALHBA is supportive of the State taking over with a few changes being made.