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Weather Damage

The clouds are lit by the sunset along 12 Mile Road between Shepherd and Billings after a hailstorm and strong winds damaged many homes in the area on Sunday, August 11, 2019.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is aware that many homeowners in areas northeast of Billings, including the communities of Shepherd and Worden, experienced severe damage to their homes and properties as a result of a hailstorm on Aug. 11. Several residents have contacted us and our partners at the state of Montana with questions about how to safely clean up, complete needed repairs, and prevent exposure to lead-based paint that is likely present on the interior and exterior surfaces of homes built prior to 1978.

EPA’s goal is to make Montana residents aware of best practices in handling debris that may contain lead to prevent harm to themselves and their families, especially children, who are most vulnerable to negative health impacts. The most basic prevention practice for damage to the exterior of homes is to prevent dust or debris from outside areas from being transported indoors. This includes removing and disposing of large debris and residual material from yards and taking steps to reduce the movement of dust and chips on shoes and clothing.

If you have concerns about lead on your property and want to get your home tested, a registry of certified contractors can be found on EPA’s website.

Contractor training

EPA also administers a regulation, called the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, or RRP Rule, which applies to contractors hired to complete renovations or repairs on homes that may contain lead-based paint. The RRP Rule requires individuals and firms who perform work that may disturb paint on homes built prior to 1978 to be EPA certified and trained in lead-safe work practices in order to prevent exposure to lead-based paint during these activities. Covered activities can include window and siding replacements, painting jobs, roof replacements, as well as other types of renovation work.

While the rule does not apply to homeowners conducting their own repairs, EPA encourages those working on their own properties to follow the same safeguards to prevent lead dust from creating a risk of lead poisoning.

Residents looking for contractors to complete repairs in homes built before 1978 should make sure the companies they hire are EPA lead-safe certified and assign a trained and certified renovator to the project. There are many certified firms in Montana, including the Billings area, with staff trained in measures to reduce the risk of lead exposure.

Health benefits

The cost of these measures, which include sealing off areas with plastic, using appropriate filters and vacuums, minimizing airborne dust, and making sure lead-containing material is safely removed from job sites, are modest when compared to the health benefits associated with preventing exposure.

For more information on lead-safe practices, the RRP rule, and how to find certified contractors in your area, visit www.epa.gov/lead. Specialists in EPA’s office in Denver are also available to answer questions about lead and ways to limit and prevent exposure at 1-800-227-8917 or r8eisc@epa.gov.

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Michelle Reichmuth is the regional lead coordinator for U.S. EPA Region 8 headquartered in Denver.

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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.