Deleading with Doug Desmarais

This is part of the Worcester Rental Real Estate Networking and Training series.

[Start 0:00:00]

Rich: The next fellow we’re going to hear from is going to talk about what’s involved in getting rid of the lead paint that we do have. This guy, he knows everything there is to know about construction. He’s the guy who gives everybody a hard time because he knows that if they changed the code last night, this guy knows it. He works for the Town of Newton. He’s a consultant for the City of Gardner, for the City of Winchendon. He’s been a consultant for the City of Worcester. I actually have some notes here about the rest of his titles because I don’t even know what they all are. He’s a Massachusetts construction supervisor, license unrestricted. Is that like for extraterrestrials [laughter]?

Doug: Yeah.

Rich: Okay, all right. Massachusetts deleading supervisor, licensed RRP certified – we’re going to learn about what RRP is – and he’s a federal dust wipe certified thing as well, and he just not works for the towns. He’s also available to help in the private sector as well, so if anybody has any questions afterwards, they could see Doug or ask him on the message board. Please help me welcome up Doug Desmarais [applause].

Doug: All right, I guess I’ll move here. I don’t have a PowerPoint. I’m a contractor. I’m lucky if I can answer my phone. First thing I want to touch on real quick was the history of lead. Lead has been around since the beginning of time. The Roman Empire used to sprinkle lead dust on their food. Lead dust tastes extremely sweet, which is the problem why kids eat lead paint and why the dust is so bad for them or attracted to them, I should say.

How to become poisoned? Well, the doctor kind of touched on a lot of that. It’s mainly the dust. You hear of kids eating lead paint. I’ve been in the business for a long time and I probably deleaded thousands of properties over the last 20 something years, and I’ve probably seen three kids that literally eat the paint chips. It’s the lead dust. The opening and the closing of the doors and the windows and the cabinets, dust lands on the floor, kids play on the floor, hands go in the mouth, then they get poisoned. I’ve seen firsthand the damage that lead dust can do to children. The learning disabilities and everything else are just it’s pretty sad. Obviously, she touched on a lot of my stuff, so I now I have to find some new stuff [laughter].

Regular home repairs, I’ve been on jobs where people are just rehabbing their own home. They lead poison their child just because they don’t understand how easy it is to create that kind of a dust and how the kids absorb it so bad, so just gutting one room can lead poison a child, and here you are trying to do the right thing. I guess she touched on this stuff, too.

Okay, had Rich had sent me ‑ well first and foremost, I guess mostly everybody here knows about the tenant lead certification form when somebody moves in. We all know this, so I can save 5 minutes there.

All right, so Rich sent me some questions that people had sent to him ahead of time. One being various deleading methods and how long each time takes to do each type of method and the cost on the method, and then the pros and cons of each mother. As far as I’m concerned, there is one method and one method only and that’s removal. Anything below that, there’s still lead in your house. There is scraping, but you still have the lead in the wood and above the 5 feet mark, there’s still lead.

There’s encapsulation, which almost a type of paint product, but you bump it, it breaks off. As a matter of fact, Massachusetts got smart this year, and they changed the encapsulation laws when now the lead inspectors can say up front, “You can’t put the encapsulation in the apartment if they think the woodwork looks bad,” where in the past, it was all on the contractor.

I can tell you right now that a contractor is going to go in there and they’re going to go, “Yeah, yeah, I can encapsulate this for you,” when it shouldn’t be getting done, which is the cheapest way to do it but cheaper is not good especially in the world of lead. Removal is the most expensive way obviously.

What’s the cost of deleading? I’ve done $1,000 jobs. I’ve done $100,000 jobs. In Worcester, you’re right. This is the triple-decker world. From 2010 to 2012, I worked for Oak Hill Community Development here in Worcester, wanting the lead grant program. We did I don’t know somewhat $6 million of lead throughout the city in triple-deckers left and right. The back hallways are the devil here. That’s where most of the lead paint is this back hallways, the old barn sliding doors, the steps. Kitchens, and bathrooms, and windows also but majority of it I found was to be back staircases.

[0:05:07]

Difference between deleading and RRP, a huge difference. RRP law has been around for quite a while. They just started enforcing it recently. One of the problems that’s happening is these contractors are going to get RRP certified, which means renovation, repair, and painting. Everybody here that owns an apartment building has to have the certification if you’re going to work on the building yourself. If you guys are doing any your own work and your chance of touching some lead paint while you’re working on your own building, if you don’t have that certification, you can get fined ridiculously large amounts of money.

It’s a one-day course. Take the course. It’s only a couple of hundred of dollars. There’s a couple of places that offer it. Whoever you hire, make sure they have that RRP certification if they’re just doing rehab. The one-day course just basically teaches you how to renovate and contain the lead paint dust that you maybe disturbing. You just assume it’s going to be lead paint before you go into the job. If the house is newer than ’78, then it doesn’t matter.

A lot of contractors have taken that course and leaving there, thinking I’m a deleader now, and there are people hiring them. And then, they’re finding out at the end you’re not going to get a letter of compliance. You have to hire a licensed deleading company in order to get your letter of compliance.

One of the questions that was sent to me was, “Can you work on your own property, deleading-wise?” RRP, yes. You just need that one-day course. Deleading-wise is a tricky one. You can get your own agent licensed, but you’re only allowed to do so much. Chances are, you will never get full deleading compliance because you can’t do high-risk deleading with that a license. You’re allowed to – I actually wrote it down so I won’t get that part wrong.

If you take the RRP course, let’s jump back to that for a minute, it’s an 8-hour course. If you pay for another 4 hours, you can now get your moderate-risk add-on, which might be beneficial just because it’s only another 4 hours, even if you don’t plan on doing the work yourself, at least you’ll understand the laws a little better but with that moderate-risk license, you’re not allowed to scrape. To bear with the compliance, you’re only allowed to make intact, and you’re only allowed to make 10 square feet of paint on the exterior intact and only two square feet on the interior, so it’s not really a lot that you can do.

You can remove components in their entirety, so if you can remove a door without ripping it out, no demolition in other words, you can take it off the hinges and carry it out. You can take cabinet doors off the hinges and carry it out. But you’re very limited at what you can do with that moderate-risk license. If you say I’m going to go for my full deleader’s license, you still can’t work on your own property. That’s construction license. You have to have a business. If you said, “Well, Mr. Inspector, I took my full deleading license.”

They’re going to say, “Too bad. You’re not a deleading company.”

Sandra: You have to get some insurance?

Doug: I don’t know that. That’s Mass law. I don’t know what the reason probably because they figure in all reality that 4 days with the training is not going to give you what you need to be able to delead completely 100 percent safely. I really don’t know. Maybe it’s the control people from working under the table and just getting a license and try to run a company without a deleading license and all the insurances involved, I would imagine.

The RRP course, the average price is $200, and Massachusetts makes you register your firm for an additional $375. Now I don’t own properties. I am told that a landlord is considered a firm. You’d have to check that if you take this course, to say do I have to register my building, me as a firm if you’re going to work on it yourself. It’s all about money. I think we’re one of the only states that make you actually every other state was free, as far as I know. It’s an additional average of an additional $65 for the moderate-risk add-on license.

There’s two types of ‑ but there’s three deleading licenses getting into the commercial end of things. There’s the business license, which just means you give the state X amount of dollars to say you’re a company. Then there’s the contractor supervisor license, which is a 4-day course. After the 4-day course, we have to take a test, and then as a supervisor, we have to go in front of OSHA and take an additional test. And then, there’s blood work involved and so on and so forth for physical.

Then, there’s the worker. The worker is a 3-day course with only a test at the end of the course, not a test with the state. The worker can do everything the supervisor can do, but cannot be left on the job alone. The supervisor has to be present at all times. If you do hire a deleading company, you want to know who the supervisor is, and you want to make sure they’re on-site at all times. Most of the time, you’re going to find one supervisor to 10 to 15 workers and then you’re going to wonder how is this company running several jobs with only one supervisor, so make sure you know who the company people are on site.

[0:10:37]

Let’s see. I can give you two phone numbers for the RRP classes. I only know of two companies. I’m sure there are a lot more, but I only know of two. There’s Caulfield Environmental, which is run by Christine Caulfield. She’s a master lead licensed inspector. Her number is (978) 534-4670. Her school is out of Leominster, and she also does lead inspections. Then there’s the Institute for Environmental Education. Wilmington I believe they’re out of. They’re (978) 658-5272. I believe they also offer lead inspections. I think they do mold inspections, and they’re a pretty big outfit.

To touch a little bit on the lead numbers the doctor was giving. As far as the state lead laws go, once a child reaches 10 mcg/dL, it’s now a level of concern and your next speaker might be able to confirm that I heard they were trying to go down to 5 mcg/dL. I don’t know if that passed or not. It’s 6 mcg/dL?

Female Audience 1: Six.

Doug: Okay, I knew they were trying to lower it. I don’t know if they did or not. Once a child hits 25 mcg/dL, they’re considered poisoned. That’s when the next speaker is going to show up and knock on your door because now the state is involved because you have a poisoned child or actually that level might even be [Clint Adobe 0:12:08] might be visiting you then.

Some of the duties as an owner of the building ‑ I hope I have the amount of time right, but in Massachusetts, when you buy a building, you have 90 days to delead that building. If a child is lead poisoned after 90 days if you’re owning that building, you’re liable. The prior 90 days I believe they go to the landlord prior to you, so I thought it was 45 but when I relooked at it today, I just found 90, so that’s something you’re going to want to look into. I’m not a lawyer but that’s what I have found today.

I want to be careful how I word it. The law says you have to delead it, but there is no lead police. They’re not going to knock on your door and say, “Is it deleaded? Is it deleaded? Is it deleaded?” If you have a child under 6, you need to make sure it’s deleaded. Period. You just open yourself up for a whole can of worms if that child becomes poisoned. I’ve seen as I’m sure you’ve all – I manage 65 units in Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner area, and I’ve seen it all. I’m sure all you have. The favorite ones we see is the rents don’t get paid and then the board of health gets called because they have lead paint, which was not an issue until they didn’t pay their rent. Luckily, the owner that I worked for owns a deleading company, so he pretty much takes care of all his units, but…

Phil, the next speaker, will touch on the order to correct. Let’s see. We talked about why only licensed guys can delead. That’s probably all I got about for right now except – that’s probably all I got now. People have any questions, I guess.

Rich: Can we just rent to people who don’t have kids?

Doug: That was a question I had on here. I wouldn’t recommend that. It is against Mass state law, the Fair Housing Law. Not only can you – unless [unintelligible 0:14:16] a lawyer. I know you, do I not? Where do you work? I don’t mean to interrupt, but you look extremely familiar. Nothing to do with the Worcester lead abatement program at all?

Female Audience 2: [unintelligible 0:14:31] grants.

Doug: You look very familiar. I don’t know. I’m sorry to interrupt. Damn, you look familiar [laughter]! I believe if you own a building and you live in the building, I think you’re allowed to discriminate, “I don’t want any kids in the building” as long as you’re living in one of the units in that building.

Sandra: You can’t say it has to do anything with lead.

Rich: Yeah.

Doug: No, we’re talking kids.

Rich: Well, let’s stick with the first answer, which was, “Do you have kids under 6 just to ‑

[0:15:00]

Doug: Yeah. You cannot say to a tenant, “I’m not going to rent to you.”

Rich: Well, hold on a second.

Doug: Phil? No [laughter].

Rich: I’m going to take the microphone back there, so that we can here from Phil.

Doug: Phil is going to tell us.

Rich: Yeah. Phil is actually one of our next speakers. You know what‑

Phil: [unintelligible 0:15:15].

Doug: Yeah, you’ll answer that after [laughter].

Rich: Yeah. That will be terrific.

Doug: So I can tell you that if you rent to a couple, and there are no kids and a kid comes along, you have to delead.

Rich: Funny you should mention that. I thought I was a genius because I actually rented an apartment ‑ this was 12 years ago ‑ to a family. They had two teenagers. I was like, “All right, cool score. I have lead paint in the building. I’m okay for a little while,” until one of them got pregnant, and that plan kind of started to fall apart, unravel very rapidly. You’re never safe.

Male Audience 1: I have two questions here. The ERP lead certification is Caulfield Environmental?

Doug: Both schools [unintelligible 0:15:55]?

Male Audience 1: And the second one is Institute of what?

Doug: Institute of Environmental Education, IEE. If you Google IEE, it will come up.

Male Audience 1: And then you said the age is 6 and under or under 6?

Doug: Six and under.

Rich: Two different things.

Male Audience 1: Under 6 means 5?

Doug: Yes.

Male Audience 1: Five, 6 you’re okay.

Doug: Okay. If you have 5 years old‑

Male Audience 1: Six and under?

Doug: And one day shy, you’re not 6 so I always say 6 and under.

Male Audience 1: If they’re all 6 years old, you’re out of that? You’re in the clear?

Rich: I think 7 you’re in the clear.

Doug: Yeah.

Rich: Let’s not take this down a month, right? [laughter] “Wait a minute, kid, you’re lead poisoned, but when is your birthday? Let’s get this straight.”

Male Audience 1: Six and a half [laughter].

Rich: I don’t know how [crosstalk 0:16:41].

Doug: My advice is no matter what age they are, they also have deleading credits, which the lead inspector can explain more about that, but you’ve got a $1,500 tax credit for every unit that gets deleaded.

Rich: Yeah, I like tax credits.

Doug: Yeah, that does help. It makes the property worth more and again I look at this from a contractor point of view because this is what I do, but I also look at it from a landlord point of view because I manage 65 units. Until you see a child who has been fully lead poisoned, you cannot understand the effects of what it can do. I’m sure you see that quite a bit in the hospital setting. I’m seeing it in the house setting where I just can’t believe an 8-year-old kid is acting like a 2-year-old kid because of the lead poisoning and the nondevelopment that’s not happening.

Rich: It’s a shame.

Doug: It is. It’s a sad thing and it’s preventable.

Rich: Sandra has a question.

Sandra: You have mentioned about if you were going to do some work and the contractor saw something about your windows…I’m confused.

Doug: You’re probably talking about the encapsulation?

Sandra: Yeah, yes.

Doug: Okay, so here’s the issue I have with lead encapsulation. First, it’s the cheapest way to do it, and I was told that we were one of the last states to allow it. Encapsulation is basically for lack of a better term, a paint that stretches and expands. Supposing you put it on your woodwork and a wall will come off.

Sandra: You mentioned the word damage. That was what it was.

Doug: Yeah.

Sandra: It was damaged.

Doug: Yeah, so in order to apply encapsulation, the contractor has to test the suitability of what he’s encapsulating. It’s called an X-cut tape test. They cut through the paint, all the way through the substrate, they put plastic on it. They pull the plastic off. They measure how much paint got ripped off with that little tape and that determines if they can encapsulate or not. They self-police themselves. They don’t have to show anybody those tape samples. They write down on a form, pass or fail. A majority of the contractors are going to go in there and they’re going to say, “Yeah, everything passed.”

The state do what they would do and this is why now they made the inspectors be able to say up front there’s no way this will pass, so I’m going to put it on the lead report it won’t pass. But even some of these things that we think might pass, you’re still allowing the contractor to self-police themselves, which is probably one of the worst things in the world you can do.

Sandra: You have to have an inspector come to the place before the encapsulation begins?

Doug: Yes, what happens the inspector comes in first, inspects the entire property for lead paint. They write a full report on where the lead paint is. Then if some of it gets removed, some of it gets scraped, maybe some gets encapsulated. Contractor goes in there and does all the removal, does all the scraping, cannot do any encapsulation until the dust wipe pass. Once the dust wipe pass, the inspector comes back and sees all the other wood has been prepped, but that doesn’t mean, there’s a million ways to make that X-cut look like it’s going to pass. I’ve seen contractors smear joint compound and cut through that instead of the paint, knowing the paint is going to chip when they cut it.

[0:20:02]

When you look at it, yeah they cut through nice and smooth, but no. They just cut through the joint compound. I walk off a job if a customer says, “I want encapsulation.”

The only time I would use it is if you have a really beautiful fireplace mantle with the intricate hand-carved historic and you take it out, dip it, it’s going to destroy the wall. Then I might be like I’ll turn it. I won’t allow it. Other than that, I tell clients hire somebody else. It’s just a headache for everybody and you own it forever. Every time the tenant chips that, you’re liable. You have to go and repair that.

Rich: The next speaker we have coming up is an inspector. Do we have any other questions that are specifically for abatement, for removing the lead? I’m going to try to sneak through here. It’s a good thing I’m not big. Here you go, Michelle.

Michelle: I just wanted to know if when you’re talking about the encapsulation, if on the exterior, you can use vinyl siding as opposed to?

Doug: Yes. We call that covering, yeah. Encapsulation can only be used on the interior; the exterior you can vinyl side if you house wrap the house first, then you can jump with vinyl siding, correct.

Male Audience 2: Two questions. This is also for the gutter. Lead paint training I had with the Department of Public Health, they said that you could possibly see 25 feet from the center of the road out this lead paint or non-lead paint. It was lead from the gasoline. Actually, it’s been quite a while, I mean.

Doug: Correct! We can lead clean this room right now. It will pass the dust wipe, and walk around them, walk right back in, and it may fail because of the lead that’s in the environment itself.

Male Audience 2: Second question: how about for the peel-away type of product that you can actually use?

Doug: Yeah, as a deleader I have to look at the ingredients. I don’t use many caustics. As a licensed deleader, we can’t use anything with methylene chloride. I might be saying that wrong. As a homeowner, you can. I don’t like the peel-away. Those products end up softening the wood. It does remove the paint, but then it also makes the wood very gummy, soft, then you have to use a – I can’t think of the word – but when you try to repaint that, the new paint is going to peel, so you need to apply a product that’s going to neutralize the peel-away.

Male Audience 2: If you have a house that is lead-free internally, externally it has lead and it has to be scraped, what happens to the tenants inside? What is the responsibility of the landlord?

Doug: If the lead work is only on the exterior, the tenants can stay. What happens is the windows have to be shut and taped close from the outside while work is being done. Even if you did old triple-decker, you can do all your interiors first, relocate the tenants one at a time, and then they can move all back in and you can do the hallways and the exterior while they’re living there. They just can’t go around the work area.

Rich: All right, that’s a lot of details. That was a lot of great information. Thank you very much, Doug [applause].

Doug: Thank you.

[End 0:23:45]

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