Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Wisconsin Helps Owners Afford Lead Service Line Replacement

lead poisoning prevention

Last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a bill that removes a longstanding obstacle in the way of replacing the 240,000 lead service lines in the state. The bill, SB-48, allows municipalities and water utilities to provide financial assistance to residents to replace lead service lines on private property.

Prior to the legislation, remediating lead service lines was a complicated issue. Lead service lines are usually under split-ownership with the resident responsible for the portion on their property, and the city responsible for the main line. Some states prohibit the use of rate funds to replace lead service lines on private property, meaning the cost of remediation falls on property owners.

Lead poisoning crises seen in cities such as Flint, Michigan and Washington, DC highlight the importance of replacing lead service lines. Old lead pipes can leech lead particles into water and be ingested. Because lead poisoning is cumulative, years of low level exposure can be extremely dangerous and cause blood, bone and cognitive disorders.

Wisconsin is now one of 12 states with a lead service line replacement program. Utilities are now permitted to use rates paid by customers to replace lead service lines. Residents can receive up to half of the total cost to remediate lead service lines. SB-48 stipulates that the financial assistance is only applicable to residents who have received an ordinance from the city requiring the replacement, but it is a major first step.

"The health and safety of Wisconsin families is our top priority. Replacing lead service lines is vital to protecting Wisconsin residents from the dangers of lead in our drinking water," Governor Scott Walker said in a recent press release.

To learn more about SB-48 and Wisconsin's efforts to address lead poisoning, visit the Environmental Defense Fund's website. To learn more about lead abatement and how to get involved in this expanding field, visit Zack Academy's lead homepage. Zack Academy offers a variety of lead certification courses nationwide.

Monday, February 26, 2018

EPA, HUD Among Agencies Facing Drastic Budget Cuts

epa hud nchh lead poisoning

Recently, the Trump administration released its proposed 2019 budget, which sparked debates on government spending. One group particularly concerned with budget cuts is the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH). NCHH is a non-profit group that advocates for improved housing conditions for undeserved communities; some of the federal agencies NCHH cooperates with are on the chopping block in the proposed budget.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) faces an $85 million cut to its requested budget. Further, the budget seeks to remove $5 million from the health homes account to redistribute to the lead account. HUD's Community Development Block Grant, which improves living conditions in undeserved areas, may be cut altogether.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may lose a third of its budget. These reductions will eliminate Indoor Air and Radon Programs, Lead and Radon Categorical Grants, and the Lead Risk Reduction Program. Budget cuts will also decrease efforts against childhood lead exposure prevention as the Children and Other Sensitive Populations Program sees a major cut.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) faces cuts to several of its important programs. HHS remediates health hazards in homes such as fire risks, carbon monoxides, and environmental toxins. HHS also provides health insurance and preventative health services to children and expecting mothers in low-income households.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can expect cuts to its Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and Environmental Public Health Tracking Program. CDC works closely with other agencies to target environmental hazards to the public.

The proposed budget cuts worry groups like NCHH: cutting these programs significantly undermines NCHH's ability to provide resources to disadvantaged populations. Furthermore, it undermines NCHH's political capital - making it more difficult to advocate for health policies.

Congressional voting on the proposed budget has been delayed in light of opposition from both sides.

To learn about how the proposed fiscal budget will affect healthy housing and federal agencies, visit NCHH's website. Visit Zack Academy to learn more about lead poisoning prevention and environmental sciences training.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Do Hotels Fall Under the EPA's Lead Paint RRP Rule for Renovations?

Lead RRP License and Hotels

There is often some confusion on whether hotel rooms fall under the EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule, which aims to prevent contamination of lead paint dust during work performed on pre-1978 housing and child occupied facilities. After all, hotels or motels can sometimes serve as short term housing and they are certainly visited by children.

We took a deep dive into the EPA ruling and subsequently issued FAQs, and found that typically hotel rooms do not qualify as "target housing*" on the RRP rule as they are "zero-bedroom dwellings**" BUT if the hotel has suites with a separate sleeping area it could apply. Here are the two FAQ's from the EPA website that offer some insight into the RRP rule regarding work performed in hotel rooms:

Question 1: Older hotels built before 1978 are knocking down walls, combining two hotel rooms, and making their units two-room or even three-room suites. My understanding has been that single hotel rooms are considered zero-bedroom dwellings**. Does the RRP Rule apply when one-room units are converted to two-room suites? 

Answer: Yes. A renovation performed for the purpose of converting a building, or part of a building, into target housing or a child-occupied facility is a renovation for purposes of the RRP Rule. Hotel suites that provide a sleeping area that is separate from the living area are covered by the RRP Rule because they are not zero-bedroom dwellings**.

Question 2: Are renovations in short-term lodgings, such as hotels and motels, time share properties, and homeless shelters, covered by the RRP Rule? 

Answer: Yes, if the property renovated is not a zero-bedroom dwelling. A zero-bedroom dwelling is a residential dwelling in which the living area is not separated from the sleeping area. The term includes efficiencies, studio apartments, dormitory housing, military barracks, and rentals of individual rooms in residential dwellings. The short-term nature of a property’s occupancy does not in itself exempt it from the RRP Rule.

* Target housing means any housing constructed prior to 1978, except housing for the elderly or persons with disabilities (unless any child who is less than 6 years of age resides or is expected to reside in such housing) or any zero-bedroom dwelling.

** zero-bedroom dwelling means any residential dwelling in which the living area is not separated from the sleeping area. The term includes efficiencies, studio apartments, dormitory housing, military barracks, and rentals of individual rooms in residential dwellings.

Federal Government Orders Milwaukee to Halt Lead Abatement

Repost from CBS 58.

This afternoon [February 12, 2018] CBS 58 obtained a copy of a letter from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development saying it is putting a "stop work" order on city's lead hazard reduction grant. That’s the money used by the city to remove sources of lead, like paint, from homes. The letter was sent to the Milwaukee Health Department Monday after HUD made a visit to the department last week. It means all HUD-funded lead abatement programs must stop.

The letter says HUD found areas of concern, including “issues of lead hazard control work in which owners were completing work that may be unsafe and non-compliant.” The letter comes after problems were uncovered within the city's childhood lead prevention program.

Mayor Tom Barrett and the health department say this move is not unexpected and they actually invited HUD to visit the program last week.

“They [HUD] had some concerns about the scope of the work that we’re doing,” Mayor Barrett said. “Our practice had been to focus on windows primarily; they want us to focus on a larger area. And I’m very comfortable with that, and I indicated to them I’m comfortable with what their suggestions are.”

The Health Department sent a letter to the common council about the HUD letter, saying staff is “…working aggressively to address many of the deficiencies identified, and will continue to work cooperatively with the HUD Program Director to insure work on HUD projects will resume as soon as possible.”

“It’s very serious,” said Ald. Michael Murphy. “In all my years I’ve never seen HUD issue an order like that. I think it’s appropriate though. Obviously they should make sure the protocol is done correctly and that they make the changes accordingly.”

The City of Milwaukee Health Department responded to the letter with the following statement:

“As part of the steps to address the issues found in the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Mayor Barrett and the City of Milwaukee Health Department invited HUD to review the findings of the Health Department’s own internal investigation.” HUD’s analysis affirmed the findings related to our HUD-funded activities, and we have agreed that a temporary pause will provide us with welcome support in improving the program.

As we take action on the recommendations issued in our own report, we will work closely with HUD to implement processes that will allow us to better respond to and help families prevent lead poisoning in our community.”

Thursday, February 22, 2018

EPA Holds Meeting On Childhood Lead Exposure Prevention

childhood lead exposure prevention epa
EPA met with fellow federal agencies to discuss a new
initiative for childhood lead poisoning prevention.

Last week, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt lead a meeting with fellow Cabinet members to define a federal strategy to reduce childhood lead exposure.

The meeting comes shortly after a federal court ordered EPA to update its 17-year-old lead regulations. Administrator Pruitt was joined by members of the President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risk and Safety Risks to Children to decide on the direction and implementation of a new childhood lead poisoning prevention initiative. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson and Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta were among notable attendees.

"Lead exposure poses a significant health threat to hundreds of thousands of American children. By refocusing Agency efforts, we can work with out government partners to develop solutions that address lead exposure and improve health outcomes for children," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a recent press release.

At the meeting, Administrator Pruitt shared his vision for a collaborative effort between multiple agencies to realize the new Federal Strategy to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Eliminate Associate Health Impacts. He stated that reducing childhood lead exposure would be a priority for EPA's 2018 agenda. Each Task Force member or their designee also shared how their respective agency could best contribute to the new initiative and how to communicate the issue to the public.

In order to reach the Task Force's goals on lead, attendees agreed to:
  • Make addressing childhood lead exposure a priority for departments and agencies
  • Set an aggressive, near-term timeline for the Task Force to complete its work to draft the strategy
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the next steps
  • Five goals that frame the new Federal Strategy Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Eliminate Associated Health Impacts
Task Force members and agency members alike agreed that childhood lead poisoning prevention is a multifaceted issue. Minorities, low-income households and children are disproportionately affected by lead poisoning. These populations are rarely able to just move out of contaminated homes. 

"Children perform better at school and in life if they live in a health home. A health start at home translates to a successful life outside of the home. HUD is committed to working across Federal agencies and with local communities to eradicate lead poisoning to make sure our homes are safe and ensure positive outcomes for families and their kids," Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said in a recent press release.

Furthermore, these populations are more likely to be exposed to lead in their workplaces.

"Far too many Americans are exposed to lead in their workplace. Finding solutions to better protect these workers and minimize the amount of lead that is taken home, and potentially exposed to their children, is a priority," Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a recent press release.

The first of many meetings on a grim subject, EPA's resolution to do better seems hopeful.

To learn more about the meeting, visit EPA's website. To learn more about lead exposure prevention and how to get involved in this field, visit Zack Academy's lead homepage.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Asbestos Inspector vs Asbestos Supervisor vs Asbestos Worker

Asbestos Inspector vs Asbestos Supervisor vs Asbestos Worker
Lately we noticed there was some slight confusion between the three main asbestos courses: Asbestos Inspector, Asbestos Supervisor, and Asbestos Worker. In order to clear up some of the confusion and make sure students spend their hard earned money on the correct course, we thought we would put a short blog post together.

As you can see in the above graphic, there is actually minimal overlap between the three courses, although they all meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) standards. From there, it is important to answer one major question:

Do I want to remove asbestos or do I want to perform an asbestos assessment?

If you want to learn how to remove asbestos properly and safely, then you either have to complete the Asbestos Worker or Asbestos Supervisor training. While both courses allow you to remove asbestos there is still one major difference - the Asbestos Worker training is a 4-day course designed to train anyone, who within a work area, removes, encapsulates or disturbs friable asbestos, or who handles asbestos material in any manner which may result in the release of asbestos fiber on an asbestos abatement project.

On the other hand, the 5-day Asbestos Supervisor training is for any individual who performs supervision of persons permitted to enter the restricted and regulated asbestos abatement work area. In short, if you want to supervise, you'll need to take the Asbestos Supervisor course - for once in life, the name actually signifies the training exactly! Supervisors can also perform the work themselves if need be, which makes the Supervisor training a common choice for small companies or sole proprietors.

Now, if you want to perform an asbestos inspection, you will need to complete the 3-day Asbestos Building Inspector training. Any person who performs the tasks involved in the asbestos survey, identification and assessment of the condition of asbestos and asbestos material, or who is involved in the collection of bulk samples of asbestos material for laboratory analysis, needs this training. The Asbestos Inspector course itself does not require pre-requisites. Please note however that some states may require additional training or licensing to perform inspections services.

Hopefully that clears up some of the confusion! While the names are tightly intertwined and all three courses are vital to complete asbestos removal safely, it is important to remember the various distinctions.

Have a question? Ask in the comments below!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

FAQ: BPI Building Analyst and IDL Certification Combo

BPI Building Analyst and IDL Combo Certification Combo

The BPI Building Analyst and IDL Combo Certification course is a popular way for energy professionals to earn two certifications in one class. Although this option simplifies certification, perspective students often have questions about how it works. Below we've answered some common questions to help you decide if this course is right for you:

What is the difference between the two certifications?
A BPI Building Analyst (BA) is a technician certified to perform BPI energy audits. A BPI Infiltration and Duct Leaking (IDL) technician is certified to perform blower door and duck leakage tests and offer remediation for faulty duct systems. The BA course is a more general course while the IDL course offers more specific training.

Why should I consider having both the Building Analyst and the IDL certifications?
A Building Analyst performing an energy performance audit might find that a huge source of energy drain is from a faulty duct and poor insulation; however, without the IDL certification, the analyst may not have the tools to offer in-depth solutions to duct issues. The applied knowledge from the IDL course can allow the analyst to test and remediate a problem.

Furthermore, professionals with a BPI Building Analyst certification and a BPI specialty certification can apply for a BPI Accredited Home Performance Contractor title for their business. This title can generate more revenue for their business.

What topics are covered in the BPI BA and IDL Combo Course?
The course covers everything in the Building Analyst and Infiltration and Duct Leaking courses. Topics addressed include:
  • Construction Math
  • Airflow
  • Blower Door and Pressure Diagnostics
  • Ventilation
  • Tightness Verification
  • Duct Testing
  • Energy Audit Process
  • Principles of Energy
  • Basics of Heat
  • Insulation
  • Moisture
  • Mechanical Systems
  • Combustion Safety
  • Carbon Monoxide Detection
  • Building Structure
Will I need to bring my own equipment to this course?
No, all equipment that BPI BA and IDL technicians can expect to use in their work - including the gas leak detector, combustion analyzer, blower door and pressure test kits - will be provided by the instructor for demonstrations.

What else is included with this course?
Depending on the trainer, students can receive:
  • Math Review Videos
  • Field Exam Prep Videos
  • Online Building Science Training
  • Hands-on Field Training at a Real House
  • Equipment Discounts from Retrotec and The Energy Conservatory
Is there an exam I have to pass to earn my certification?
Yes, there are three exams in this combo course and students must pass all three to earn both certifications:
  • BPI Building Analyst written exam
  • BPI Building Analyst field exam
  • BPI IDL field exam
What are the exams like?
The BPI BA written exam is a 2 hour exam testing on BPI evaluation standards and diagnostic procedures. The field exams test students in a hands-on manner, focusing on the safety protocols and energy audit procedures.

Do I have to pay for the exams?
No, the exam fees are included in the cost of registration so there's no need to purchase anything besides the BPI BA and IDL Combo course.

How long is the course?
Typically, the course is 5 days in length. Below is an example of a typical combo course schedule.

BPI Building Analyst and IDL Combo Certification Combo Schedule

Are there any prerequisites for taking this course?
No, there are no prerequisites for taking the BPI Building Analyst and IDL Combo Certification course. However, students with a background in construction or remodeling will be more familiar with the concepts taught in class.

The BPI Building Analyst and IDL Combo Certification course can be a great timesaver for professionals looking to boost their service offerings. You might say we've made energy efficiency certification quite efficient.

Learn more about getting certified today.

Monday, February 12, 2018

EPA Updates Lead Disclosure Booklet to Address Lead in Water

Lead in Drinking Water

Last year, the EPA updated its "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home" booklet to improve information on lead hazards faced by homeowners and tenants. Changes include more in-depth information on lead in drinking water and de-emphasis on paint, dust and soil as the most common sources of lead.

Since 1996, property owners have been required by law to provide residents of homes built before 1978 with a copy of the booklet. The last update to the "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home" was made in 2012; since then, several lead crises involving contaminated drinking water swept the nation, including: Flint, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and even Washington, DC.

Lead exposure is toxic - even small amounts in the blood can cause cognitive and physical disorders. Because lead poisoning is cumulative, researchers are extremely concerned with low level exposure over a period of time - such as what one may experience when drinking tap water over the years from a lead-leaching faucet.

These cases have renewed focus on lead poisoning prevention, especially in regards to water safety.  Now, the booklet has a full page dedicated to lead in drinking water compared to the blurb in the 2012 edition. Lead pipes, faucets and fixtures as well as homes with private wells are explicitly named as common sources of lead in drinking water.

The new booklet has removed the statement that paint, dust, and soil are the most common sources of lead poisoning. Also removed is the advice to run water for 30 seconds before drinking from the tap. New research has showed that homes with lead service lead can still test for high levels even after 30 seconds of flushing.

Now, the booklet recommends residents to regularly clean their faucet screen or aerators, and to use a filter to remove lead from tap water. The booklet also reminds residents that some states and local utility companies offer free water testing, so researching if their home has a lead service line is worth the effort.

Finally, the new booklet lists the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline in addition to its Lead Poisoning Prevention Hotline. Residents can now receive specialized information for lead contaminated drinking water.

These revisions are an important step in educating the public on lead hazards. Lead poisoning prevention is imperative to the health of communities; armed with the right information, residents can make an impact on this health crisis.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

HVAC Certification: EPA 608 Section I, II, III & Core

HVAC Certification: EPA 608


Section 608 of the Clean Air Act requires the EPA 608 Technician Certification for anyone who works with equipment that could release refrigerants deemed harmful to the ozone. To become certified, technicians must pass a certification exam that is tailored to the type of equipment they'll be working on. Determining which type of certifications and exams are required can be tricky to navigate, so we've outlined common questions below to help you get started!

Do I really need to have the 608 Certification to do HVAC Technician work?
Yes, HVAC Technicians or anyone performing qualifying work on refrigerant-containing equipment, must have a valid 608 Technician Certification. Technicians operating without a certification can be fined up to $27,500 by the EPA.

The EPA defines applicable work as the following: "Attaching and detaching hoses and gauges to and from an appliance to measure pressure within the appliance. Adding refrigerant to or removing refrigerant from an appliance. Any other activity that violates the integrity of a motor vehicle air conditioner (MVAC)-like appliance or small appliance (other than disposal)."

What are the types of EPA 608 Technician Certifications?
  • Type I: to service small appliances (under 5 pounds of refrigerant)
  • Type II: to service or dispose of high pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning systems (MVACs)
  • Type III: to service or dispose of low pressure appliances
  • Universal: to perform all duties in Type I, II, and III; students must pass all four exams (Core, Type I, II and III) to earn this certification
What are the exam sections like and which ones do I have to take?
  • Core: All technicians must pass the Core section to receive any certification. This section contains general knowledge questions concerning:
    • stratospheric ozone depletion
    • the Clean Air Act
    • the Montreal Protocol
    • refrigerant recovery
    • recycling and reclaiming
    • recovery devices
    • substitute refrigerants and oils
  • Section I: This exam provides Type I certification. This section contains specific to small appliances such as:
    • recovery requirements
    • recover techniques
    • safety
  • Section II: This exam provides Type II certification. This section contains questions specific to high pressure appliances such as:
    • leak detection
    • leak repair requirements
    • recovery techniques
    • refrigeration
    • safety
  • Section III: This exam provides Type III certification. This section contains questions specific to low pressure appliances such as:
    • leak detection
    • leak repair requirements
    • recovery techniques
    • recharging techniques
    • recovery requirements
    • refrigeration
    • safety
I only want my Type III exam to work on low pressure appliances. Do I need to take Type I and Type II?
No, depending on the trainer, students are allowed to choose which section exam they want to complete. However, students must pass the Core exam in order to receive any certification.

If I take all four exams to get a Universal Certification and fail one, do I have to take every exam over?
No, but this accommodation depends on the trainer. Students may retake the failed exam and be certified for the sections they past; however, students must pass the Core section to receive any certification.

I heard these exams are open-book. Is that true?
The Core and Section I exams can be taken open-book and without an exam proctor through approved providers; Section II and Section III are closed-book exams by EPA law. The only outside materials allowed for Type II and Type III are a temperature/pressure chart and a calculator.

Where do I take my exam?
You can take the exam online if you have a computer with a webcam, or in-person at a predetermined testing site. The exam must be administered by an EPA-approved organization.

Once I'm certified, do I need to take a refresher course?
No, the EPA 608 Certification does not expire. If you need to replace your card, visit the EPA website for instructions.

Are there any pre-requisites?
No, there are no pre-requisites to sit for the 608 Certification exams.
Field experience and additional training will most likely be required to attain a job in the HVAC field, although often on-the-job training or apprenticeships are available.

Now that you've decided which certification is right for your career and which exam will get you there, don't forget to to think about how to prepare for the exam. While it's possible to just take the exams, most students perform better if they take a prep course. Officially organized prep courses are taught to EPA standards and are the best way to guarantee students will know what's on the exam.

For students who choose to do it on their own, it's recommended to brush up on the exam topics listed above. Making flashcards, creating outlines of study text and even seeking hands-on training from employers can help reinforce these topics.

HVAC certification doesn't have to be confusing - learn more about getting certified today.

For those looking for a more in-depth program for HVAC certification, check out the HVAC Maintenance Technician Online Certification program, which includes the EPA 608 exams in addition furnace maintenance, air conditioning maintenance and basic electricity education.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Infographic: How to Get Your Lead Paint Certification

Infographic: How to get your lead paint certification
If you're a contractor/construction worker and you often work on older homes, apartment buildings, or other child occupied facilities you're probably familiar with the different types of Lead Paint Certifications - in particular, the EPA Lead Renovator (RRP) Certification.

As a refresher, if you perform any renovations, repairs, or painting (RRP) on pre-1978 homes or child occupied facilities you are required by law to be a certified Lead Renovator. Unfortunately, the certification process can become rather convoluted - particularly if you live in non-EPA-Run States including Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Enter Zack Academy!

On the left you will find an infographic that explains the steps to attain and maintain your Lead Renovation Certification in each state. The image on the left is just a teaser, so please download the fully interactive PDF below - it comes complete with clickable links to Lead Renovator Initial and Lead Renovator Refresher training in EVERY state, as well as links to attain your EPA Firm Certification. If you live in non-EPA-Run States you'll notice the infographic includes more specific information, including additional steps and the different length of time for your license expiration.