EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 9, 2012

Derry contractor fined for lead paint violations

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — DERRY — Two years after the federal government adopted stricter lead-paint rules, a local contractor is one of only a few in New Hampshire to be fined for violating new regulations.

But Mark DiMinico, owner of Exterior Images in Derry, contends he’s being penalized unfairly. The painting contractor claims he had to pay more than $3,000 in fines for work done by another contractor years ago.

“I was pretty upset that they would find me guilty,” he said. “It’s just not the kind of business I run.”

DiMinico and his company have been cited by the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to make sure lead paint was properly removed from an apartment building at 7 Central St.

Exterior Images was cited for not notifying the occupants the work was taking place, including posting signs, according to the EPA. The firm also failed to cover the ground with plastic sheeting and to make sure potentially harmful lead particles weren’t released into the environment, the EPA said.

The EPA tightened its regulations because many homes being renovated have lead paint, which has been prohibited since 1978. Lead paint has been linked to developmental problems in young children.

The new regulations are punishable by a $37,500 for each day a firm fails to correct a violation, which some local contractors have said would easily put them out of business. Contractors also must wear protective clothing, use special equipment, and take a daylong training course to prove they know to prevent lead contamination.

DiMinico, also cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said he was initially fined $18,000, but reached a settlement requiring him to only pay about $1,500 to each agency.

Although the penalty was reduced, his one-man company was hit hard, DiMinico said.

“That was 40 percent of my profits this year,” he said.

DiMinico said he painted the apartment building, owned by Property Portfolio Group of Wilton, in March. But, he said, portions of the building had been sandblasted by another company at least 20 years ago. He did not know who performed the work.

DiMinico said he painted the building and didn’t remove any lead paint. The EPA disagreed.

“I thought I had done everything up to par and they just wouldn’t listen,” he said. “I was one of the first to take that class.”

Contractors had until April 22, 2010, to receive training but the deadline was extended because thousands across the country wouldn’t be able to comply in time.

More than a year after the initial deadline, no New England contractors had been found in violation, according to David Deegan, a spokesman for the EPA’s Boston office.

Although the EPA says not many have been cited since then, Exterior Images was one of only 16 across the country — and two from New Hampshire — identified by the agency this week. Kindred Painting of Dover was also named.

Kendall Buck, executive vice president of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of New Hampshire, praised the EPA for taking action against the contractors.

He said Exterior Images and Kindred Painting are the only two in the state he knows of to be cited. Neither company is a member of his association, which is trying make sure all contractors across New Hampshire are trained, Buck said.

“We have been working very hard to train the industry,” he said. “It’s a safety issue for children and pregnant women.”