Enforcing Lead Laws and Regulations

Enforcement ensures that companies and individuals who violate the law are held accountable. The goal of EPA's enforcement program is to protect public health, deter would-be violators, and level the playing field for companies that follow the law.

EPA's enforcement program works with the Department of Justice, states, tribal governments and law enforcement agencies to take administrative and judicial actions at both the federal and state level, and to bring violators into compliance with environmental laws.

Here are some examples of lead-related enforcement actions:

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Lead in Paint, Dust and Soil

Lead-based Paint Program

Enforcement of the lead-based paint program is conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA gives EPA authority to inspect, subpoena documents, require testimony and bring civil administrative actions.

EPA has issued civil administrative enforcement response and penalty policies. The goal of the lead-based paint enforcement response and penalty policies is to provide fair and equitable treatment of the regulated community, predictable enforcement responses, and comparable penalty assessments for comparable violations, with flexibility to allow for individual facts and circumstances of a particular case.

Storage and Disposal of Hazardous Wastes

To ensure that hazardous wastes are managed in a manner that does not endanger human health or the environment, EPA enforces requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regarding the safe handling, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes, including wastes containing lead. EPA and the states verify compliance with these requirements through a comprehensive compliance monitoring program which includes inspecting facilities, reviewing records and taking enforcement action where necessary.

Lead at Superfund Sites

EPA programs, federal agencies, state agencies, and tribes all share in the responsibility for managing lead risk and cleanup of lead. EPA uses a number of cleanup authorities independently and in combination to address specific cleanup situations. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly known as Superfund), EPA finds the companies or people responsible for contamination (potentially responsible parties (PRPs)) at a site and negotiates with them to clean up the site themselves. The Agency uses its authority, when appropriate, to order, or ask a court to order, PRPs to clean up the site. In addition, where viable PRPs do not exist the Agency will use Superfund Trust Fund resources to take appropriate action.

Read more about cleaning up lead Superfund sites

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Lead in Water

Drinking Water

Control of lead in drinking water is handled under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Public water systems must comply with the national primary drinking water regulations. These regulations include health-based standards and monitoring and reporting requirements.

EPA and states enforce the Lead and Copper Rule along with other important drinking water regulations. As part of a broader effort, EPA issued the Drinking Water Enforcement Response Policy (ERP) in December 2009. The ERP is a new approach replacing the contaminant-by-contaminant compliance strategy with one that is more holistic. The ERP helps focus enforcement attention on public drinking water systems with the most serious or repeated violations, including noncompliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

Lead is rarely found in source water, but enters drinking water through corrosion of plumbing materials and service lines.

Rivers, Lakes, Streams and Coastal Waters

The Clean Water Act (CWA) focuses on improving the quality of the nation's waters. It provides a comprehensive framework of standards, technical tools and financial assistance to address the many causes of pollution and poor water quality, including municipal and industrial wastewater discharges, polluted runoff from urban and rural areas, and habitat destruction. The CWA prohibits anyone from discharging pollutants, including lead, through a point source into a water of the United States unless they have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

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Lead in Air

Enforcement of lead in the air is conducted under the Clean Air Act (CAA), which regulates stationary and mobile sources that create air pollution. The act requires major stationary sources, such as manufacturers, processors, refiners, and utilities, to obtain operating permits and install pollution control equipment and to meet specific emissions limitations.

The major sources of lead emissions to the air today are ore and metals processing and leaded aviation gasoline. Other stationary sources are waste incinerators, utilities, and lead-acid battery manufacturers.

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