Man faces $150,000 in fines for endangering children with lead paint

Posted May 16, 2011, at 6:20 p.m.
Last modified May 16, 2011, at 6:50 p.m.
Image captured from anonymous YouTube video

ROCKLAND, Maine — When someone leaked a video of men sanding the side of an apartment building and letting lead paint chips fly around, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and started counting up the violations. Six of them.

Now Rockland contractor Colin Wentworth faces a minimum of $150,000 in fines from the federal agency.

According to the 22-page EPA complaint, Wentworth was on a vacation in October 2010 when his brother and one of his employees began sanding paint off an outside apartment wall on Park Street. Wentworth had proper lead paint training and certification, but the two men doing the work did not, the EPA wrote. The men neglected to use a sander with a vacuum to suck up the paint chips, to put down tarps, clean up, or contain the paint chips in any way. The 1852 building shed lead paint near the apartments, which housed at least six children, according to the EPA.

“Children could subsequently become exposed to lead by playing in or ingesting the contaminated soil [near their home],” the EPA complaint states. “Children under the age of 6 are most likely to be adversely affected by the presence of lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards.”

This building, which contains four apartments, was home to at least one child under the age of 6.

Lead paint exposure to children “can cause developmental impairment, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavioral problems,” the EPA wrote in a press release Monday. “Adults with high lead levels can suffer difficulties during pregnancy, high blood pressure, nerve disorders, memory problems and muscle and joint pain.”

Further, the EPA wrote that Wentworth should have better trained and supervised his staff.

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection found out about the lead paint chips by an anonymous YouTube video of the sanding. The state agency cited Wentworth for a violation because of the toxic mess around the building. The DEP asked Wentworth to clean up the paint chips. When the department checked the apartment the next day, the paint chips were cleaned up. The DEP will not take any further action, according to officials.

Federal officials, however, are pursuing six violations included: failure to obtain initial firm certification, failure to post warning signs, failure to cover ground with plastic sheeting, use of sanding or grinding equipment without HEPA exhaust control, failure to contain waste from renovation activities and failure to establish and maintain records. According to the EPA documents, the only violation Wentworth did not verbally admit to concerns the firm certification.

The EPA awaits a written response to the allegations from Wentworth. EPA officials also have offered him a chance to talk about a settlement.

Wentworth declined Monday to comment on the violations.

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