Home Depot hit with more than $20 million fine by the EPA and Justice Department

The Home Depot store on Cumberland ParkwayThe Home Depot store on Cumberland Parkway (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

According to a press release from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), retail giant Home Depot, headquartered in Cobb County, has settled a multi-state lawsuit over alleged violations of the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule.

Utah, Massachusetts and Rhode Island joined the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice in this action.

The settlement was reached in the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, and under the terms of the agreement Home Depot is required to ensure that subcontractors hired by Home Depot to do renovation projects are trained and certified in practices that avoid spreading lead dust and paint chips.

They will also pay a $20.75 million fine.

$750,000 of the money will go to Utah, $732,000 to Massachusetts, and $50,000 to Rhode Island.

This represents the highest penalty ever paid for a violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

“Today’s settlement will significantly reduce children’s exposure to lead paint hazards,” said Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance in the press release. “Home Depot will implement system-wide changes to ensure that contractors who perform work in homes constructed before 1978 are EPA-certified and follow lead-safe practices. EPA expects all renovation companies to ensure their contractors follow these critical laws that protect public health.”

“These were serious violations. The stiff penalty Home Depot will pay reflects the importance of using certified firms and contractors in older home renovations,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in the press release. “Contractors hired for most work in homes built prior to 1978, when lead based paint was in widespread use, must be certified. These contractors have the training to recognize and prevent the hazards that can be created when lead paint is disturbed.”

The press release describes how the investigation began:

EPA discovered the alleged violations when investigating five customer complaints about Home Depot renovations (in Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin), which showed Home Depot subcontracted work to firms that in some cases did not use lead-safe work practices, perform required post-renovation cleaning, provide the EPA-required lead-based paint pamphlets to occupants, or maintain records of compliance with the law.  

EPA then conducted a comprehensive review of Home Depot’s records of renovations performed throughout the United States and identified hundreds of instances in which Home Depot sent uncertified firms to perform renovations that required certified and trained firms. In addition, EPA identified instances in which Home Depot failed to establish, retain, or provide compliance documentation showing that specific contractors had been certified by EPA, had been properly trained, and had used lead-safe work practices in projects performed in homes.

To read the complete press release from the EPA, and for information on how to request an investigation if a contractor or subcontractor does not seem to be using lead-safe methods, follow this link.