These cut little children who hover around 6 years or younger can sometimes act like a terror but never before could they be seriously called ‘terrorists’. Thanks to the Massachusetts Lead Law (Regulations for Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control, 105 Code of Massachusetts Regulations 460.000 and the Deleading Regulations, 454 CMR 22.00), we can now hearken back to the days of the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong would take a cute little child, strap him with high explosives and send him into a bunch of American soldiers. Just as the soldiers reacted with kindness, the Cong would press the remote. Today, you might as well do the same. Send the little kid into the historic building. But thanks to the government, you won’t even need high explosives to blow that historic building to bits!
Now stay with me on this one and soon you too will be shrinking with terror, once you spy one of these little tykes!
This is how the Lead Law is setup. As long as you have no child under six years old living in your historic house (actually any house older than 1978 which is when lead in paint was made illegal.), lead paint is no big deal. Most of the homes have either been stripped of the lead paint or modern paints have long ‘encapsulated’ the lead paint. (That’s fancy talk that you painted over it.) As long as you keep a healthy, well-maintained covering, there is nothing to worry about and there is little concern.
Unless three things happen:
A child, six years or younger is to live in the house.
You plan on renting out all or part of your building.
You plan on selling the house to someone who has a child, six years or younger. (I might as well rephrase this to say, “If you plan on selling your house.” The government sealed this loophole a long time ago. It is illegal to deny habitation to families with children.)
Unless you plan on keeping that house in your family for generations, you have to deal with the lead.
Okay, I’ll just de-lead my house – I’ll hire a local contractor or do it myself. Oh, no; in this state if you try to do it, you are technically a lawbreaker. You are not allowed to do it. That’s because they have created a government-sanctioned industry that is in the billions of dollars just here in little Massachusetts! You have to first have a lead inspector or risk assessor check out your home. They will test your house to see if you are de-leaded and, even if you de-leaded the house yourself, you will fail the test. Lead gravitates deep into the wood and even though you may have removed it on the surface and it’s really in a safe condition deep inside, the point is, you won’t ever get approved!
What you are looking for is a magic document called Letter of Compliance. AND YOU ARE GOING TO PAY THROUGH THE NOSE TO GET IT. They want you to use duly-licensed lead removing companies that are heavily regulated by the Commonwealth in probably the most expensive-way possible. This includes HazMat suits, taping off whole sections of the building, expensive filtrated environment so the workers can push out the lead dust and of course, an elaborate disposal system. We’re talking $$$. All to get the golden document. You can delay it with a Letter of Interim Control but that only lasts 2 years. I suppose so you can save up your money!
But it gets worse. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program bureaucrats are the Viet Cong of the past. They have convinced themselves that window removal is the only way to stop lead. They actually have coded into every document given out by banks and mortgage companies, that they recommend removal of windows and that this is because (here’s the myth) that new windows are more energy efficient.
One of the first things to do in destroying historic buildings is to rip out the much better constructed windows. It unfortunately reduces the value of the home. It is also a fact that new storms that are coming out can produce even better energy efficiency than most new windows. Plus, these new windows don’t last very long further enlarging our landfills!
So, now these bureaucrats are supporting this billion-dollar industry of de-leading and now they are supporting the billion-dollar new window industry (You can see every week huge ads by these window companies in our local papers). Not only that, they encourage value-depleting measures such as vinyl siding as a remediation solution!
Worst of all, just like terrorist training camps, these bureaucrats are training an army of lead inspectors and risk assessors to relay just such destruction and misinformation! Here is the list of their trained minions!
So, other than the government, the new windows salesmen, the lead inspectors and the risk assessors pushing for destruction of historic homes; we also have real estate agents and the companies they represent. They* already bristle whenever a house has a preservation restriction. They* scream that this limits the full maximum range of potential customers. They* use the same argument on the lead issue. By not de-leading the home (or in truth, paying a stinking lot of money to ‘officially’ de-lead the house), you limit the customer base effectively ruling out families.
So, what can you do?
First, of course, we have experienced licensed lead inspectors who are standing up to these government terrors and helping people with historic homes to de-lead without destroying the property value. Organizations such as Alpine Environmental in Chelmsford. We need to approach our local inspectors to find out what they are recommending. I will be calling them this week to see how bad this situation is.
Bill Harris, as a lawyer, saw this coming last year and everyone nodded rather impatiently as he warned everyone. The only way to stop this onslaught is to meet it head on. We need to educate aggressively. We need to let homeowners know that it is worth the time to get the Letter of Compliance and save all architectural features on the home. When buying a home, make sure you secure the legal transfer of the Letter of Compliance from the buyer. Losing it may mean some de-leading companies are going to make some more money. And yes, these Letters are transferrable!
It is going to take an Herculean task to defeat this destructive law, but it can be done. Other historic cities and towns are successfully waging the war. We can too!
* I am praying that our local historic-building sensitive realtors are not included in ‘They’. We can thank leaders in the real estate field such as Delores Persons and Jerry Lischke among others who have helped discourage such disgraceful recommendations.