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Government looks to get the lead out

Construction, real estate industries worry new regulations would stifle business.

October 01, 2010|By Max Zimbert, max.zimbert@latimes.com

GLENDALE — At least one Glendale real estate company is anxious about a new regulation by the federal government.

David N. Schultz Inc. manages about 45 rental properties in Glendale, and is bracing for what could be a litigation bonanza when a lead-containment regulation is enforced starting today.

While the Environmental Protection Agency regulation puts the containment responsibility on the contractors and construction workers, David Schultz, the real estate company's president, said he's already seen vendors rebel or ignore some of its requirements, which became effective in April.

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Fines could cost up to $37,500 per violation.

"The biggest problem right now is to get the vendors to understand and be serious about this," he said. "It is a lot of precaution, tapping here, plastic there, and they don't like it."

It's going to cost them more money, but the law holds them responsible to contain construction dust that may contain lead particles.

The regulation applies to buildings with children that predate 1978. But in its specificity and requirements for certain jobs, and exemptions for others, Schultz said he could expect more disputes with construction crews.

"I don't like the concept of the government telling us how to do our business, and to some extent that's what they've done here," he said. "It's just going to be a big adjustment to do it this way."

A few particles of lead containment can be extremely dangerous for children, said Lynda Burlison, the health services coordinator for Glendale Unified School District.

"It can cause developmental delay and mental lethargy," she said. "Depending on when you were exposed, your brain might not develop well."

Many at the training said they viewed lead as the next generation of mold or asbestos — contaminants that ultimately led to a spike in litigation.

Schultz's employees were trained and certified to observe and ensure construction meets the new specifications.

Ara Amirkhanian oversees more than 20 properties for the company, and said the regulation likely means more work.

"It's part of the job," he said. "[We have] the knowledge to know whether the vendor is doing the job. We know what to look for."

For Schultz, smarter and more alert employees could pay a dividend in future transactions with construction jobs in the future, he said.

"I don't want to be dragged into their failure and their liability," he said. "Am I in love with this new law? No … but it takes such a tiny amount of lead dust to harm a child."

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