Despite testimony from RSA that discredited any attempt to amend existing lead-based paint laws, the City Council still enacted a package of anti-lead laws on March 13th that will adversely affect building owners.
The most significant bill, Intro. 865, reduces the minimum thresholds for lead-based paint from 1.0 milligrams per square centimeter (mg/cm²) to 0.5 mg/cm² as determined by x-ray fluorescence analyzer (XRF) testing. With regard to this section of the bill, there is currently no existing XRF detector available that can accurately measure lead content at the approved level of 0.5 mg/cm. As a result, the existing threshold of 1.0 mg/cm² will remain in place until further notice. However, a shift to this standard appears inevitable and will cause havoc throughout the industry. Not only will this create a lead-free standard, but apartments and buildings that were exempted under existing laws would have to re-establish their eligibility for exemption.
Additionally, the bill reduces the blood lead reference level from 15 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL), which has been the reference level since Local Law 1 of 2004 was enacted, to 5 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL). Furthermore, it reduces the minimum thresholds for lead-based paint when testing for paint chips from 0.5% to 0.25% by weight, lead-contaminated dust on floor from 40 micrograms per square foot (mcg/sf) to 5 mcg/sf, from 250 mcg/sf to 40 mcg/sf on window sills, and from 400 mcg/sf to 100 mcg/sf on window wells.
When RSA testified against this bill in September 2018, the legislation then proposed reducing the threshold from 1.0 mg/cm², to 0.3 mg/cm² or greater. The Council’s main goal was to convert the long-established and long-accepted approach of lead-safe housing to a lead-free approach. RSA argued that this approach had long been regarded as unnecessary, impractical, expensive and as a result of the accomplishments under the existing City regulations, totally counter-productive.
After hearing thorough testimony from RSA and Josh Sarett of ALC Environmental, the legislation was all but dead after the Council realized there was truly no justification to amend the existing lead-based paint laws. However, given the pressure from the de Blasio Administration as a result of the ongoing lead paint issues at City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings, the legislation was amended into its current form and passed despite the facts against it. It could not be more obvious that the City has made private rental property owners the sacrificial lamb for the poor handling of lead paint cases at NYCHA, stating that this bill is “in the interest of public health.”
The bill, which currently awaits signature from Mayor Bill de Blasio, will go into effect 120 days after it becomes law, except that the lowered dust definition would go into effect 60 days after the bill becomes law, and the lower paint definition would go into effect at least 12 months after the bill becomes law, depending on the commercial availability of XRF machines certified to detect the relevant lead paint levels.
These are very critical changes to the lead laws. We will update you frequently over the next few months on the status of this law through the RSA Reporter.