Tired of hearing about safe lead renovation? It does seem like this has been going on for a long time. The issues, the science, the procedures, the rules, and the schedule for implementation have been under discussion for a decade at least. When this past June the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) went after a big company for a large sum of money ? Hansons Windows & Siding, in Michigan, $785,000 ? it charged the home improvement contractor with failing to warn customers about the danger of lead dust ? in May 2005.

There's some irony in the fact that two days before the announcement about Hansons, the EPA issued a press release saying it was providing a grace period for contractors who hadn't yet received lead-safe training or had their companies certified to perform lead-safe removal.

Initially, if you wanted to work in homes built before 1978, your company had to be certified and someone on your staff had to be certified by April 22. Now the EPA says that it won't enforce strict certification requirements until the end of the year, which will give non-certified contractors time to comply.

Read that as an admission that there simply aren't enough lead-safety trainers to train all the companies that need it. Testing, containment, and clean-up are required. But what about enforcement? It could go several ways: big fines, spot on-site inspections, so-called "rat lines" for calling in and identifying violators. The timing of the action against Hansons was a signal that the agency is not backing off.

You can do a few things to steer clear of trouble. One, get certified or sign up to do so by the end of this month. Two, if you use subcontracted installers, insist that they comply with the EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting rule if they want the work. Three, bring the subject up when selling. Four, document compliance, obtain the necessary signatures, and store that documentation in the job file for protection against audits or suits.

What the final rules will be and the extent to which they are enforced remains uncertain. What you can control is the way you respond. Be clear: lead-safe renovation is required and has been required since April 22. You have to test, to safely contain, and to clean in houses built before 1978 that have lead paint.

It costs money and time, but the investment can be leveraged to demonstrate your professionalism. That's how well-managed companies are playing it.

?Jim Cory, Editor