[caption id="attachment_102161" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Blue Mountain Enterprises companies are based in this Vacaville building.[/caption]

VACAVILLE -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined a Vacaville-based contractor $51,000 for not complying with federal lead-paint rules when renovating four foreclosed homes.

The agency on Wednesday said Blue Mountain Air violated the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule by not obtaining an EPA certification for the company beforehand, using certified renovators -- both subcontractor and their workers -- and complying with other safety practices for handling such paint.

“Lead-based paint is the main source of lead poisoning for children, which can cause learning disabilities and behavior problems,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Pacific Southwest administrator. “EPA will take enforcement action against companies that operate without the training and certification needed to protect children, families and workers.”

The action stemmed from work in 2011 and 2012 in homes in Napa, El Sobrante and Santa Rosa, according to the agency. Blue Mountain Air is part of Blue Mountain Enterprises. Greg Owen started the family-owned group of companies more than three decades ago. Subsidiaries include Blue Mountain Homes for acquiring and fixing up properties nationwide and Blue Mountain Realty for selling those and other homes.

The agency also faulted for failing to maintain required records to ensure that warning signs were posted, work areas were contained and a certified renovator verified the homes were properly cleaned afterward.

The EPA said common renovation activities such as sanding, cutting and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips, which can contaminate floors, window sills and other surfaces of a home if the proper steps aren't taken throughout the project. 

Lead exposure is more dangerous to children than adults because children’s growing bodies absorb more lead, and their brain and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead, which include: behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and damage to the brain and nervous system. Children under 6 years old are at most risk. No level of lead in blood has been identified as safe for children.

The U.S. banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978, but the EPA estimates that more than 37 million older homes in the U. S. still have lead-based paint.

The Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule is part of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Contractors who disturb painted surfaces in places kids frequent that were built before 1978 must be trained and certified, provide educational materials to residents, and follow safe work practices.

Nationwide, more than 100,000 contractors have completed the process to become certified. A single day of training is required to learn about the lead-safe work practices, but many companies continue to operate without training or certification and without regard for the potential harm to children. The EPA continues to pursue enforcement against companies that are not certified and uses information from the public to help identify violators.