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Long Island

LI contractors ask for time to comply with lead rules

Long Island remodeling contractors said this week they need more time for special training and equipment required to comply with new federal guidelines for working in areas with lead paint.

The Environmental Protection Agency's lead renovation, repair and painting rules, effective April 22, are designed to prevent lead poisoning in children when work is done in homes, child-care facilities and schools built before 1978.

The EPA requirements include building containment areas to trap lead dust, using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuums for cleanup and having workers wear protective clothing and dust masks. Also, contractors working in pre-1978 buildings must be certified in lead-abatement training.

Contractors like Jerry Burdi, owner of DJ's Home Improvement in New Hyde Park and a member of the Long Island chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, aren't opposed to the safety rules. But Burdi and others say they can't get the required training or new equipment before the April 22 deadline.

"We're saying we agree that the safety of children is paramount, but more time is needed," said Burdi, who was among several contractors attending a news conference in Selden Tuesday with Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) to publicize contractors' concerns.

Burdi said homeowners also need to be aware of the new rules because the cost of projects in homes with lead paint could run as much as 15 percent higher than those in lead-free homes.

Bishop sent a letter Tuesday to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson requesting her agency give contractors more time to comply with the rules.

In the letter, Bishop said 135 accredited trainers and 13,669 certified remodelers have met the EPA lead-safety guidelines nationwide. By the EPA's own standards, that's far short of the 200,000 remodelers needed to be certified to complete lead-safe projects, he wrote.

"We're asking for some help for contractors," Bishop spokesman Jon Schneider said. "Delay implementation ... give people time to catch up."

The EPA said Wednesday it is not considering extending the compliance date for the rule. In an e-mail, EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said the new rule was published in April 2008 and included a two-year period to become fully effective.

Doug Dervin, owner of Double D Contractors in Hicksville and a past chapter president of NARI, said many contractors who aren't members of a trade group aren't even aware of the new guidelines.

"We want to postpone, educate and modify," Dervin said of the EPA rules. He cited one potential problem because the new rules do not apply when work is done by the homeowner.

Although lead paint was banned in 1978, the National Association of Home Builders says about 79 million American homes - 87 percent built before 1940 and 24 percent built between 1960 and 1978 - contain some form of lead-based paint.

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