U.S. Attorney Announces Consent Decree With Orange County Horse Racing Training Center For Violating Clean Water Act
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Lisa F. Garcia, the Regional Administrator for Region 2 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), announced today that the United States filed a civil lawsuit against APEX BUILDING COMPANY, INC. (“APEX”) alleging violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) and EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (“RRP Rule”). The United States simultaneously entered into a Consent Decree resolving that lawsuit. The Consent Decree includes a $606,706 civil penalty, the second largest civil penalty ever imposed under the RRP Rule, and requires APEX to take steps to mitigate potential harms caused by its conduct.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Apex’s conduct threatened to expose people, including children, to toxic lead paint dust in communities that already suffer disproportionately from public health and environmental hazards. Through this lawsuit and consent decree, we are holding Apex responsible for its legal violations.”
EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia said: “This company’s actions were inexcusable; they are also all too common, that is why EPA is partnering with state and local partners to crack down on improper renovation work that can expose our kids to toxic lead. There is no safe level of lead, and lead paint dust is the biggest source of lead exposure for children. As evidenced by this case, if companies think they can get away with endangering our kids, they are wrong.”
The TSCA and the RRP Rule impose safety requirements to minimize the risk that young children, tenants, and renovation workers are exposed to toxic lead paint dust during renovations of residential buildings. Exposure to lead paint dust is the most common cause of lead poisoning, which can lead to severe, irreversible health problems, particularly in children. Lead poisoning can affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, causing reduced IQ, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.
As alleged in the United States’ complaint filed in the district court:
APEX is a general contractor that conducted renovation work in hundreds of apartment units between 2015 and 2021. In March 2016, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inspected an APEX worksite and found that it had failed to contain lead dust, resulting in dust containing lead-based paint in excess of federal standards entering public hallways, in violation of the RRP Rule. The EPA determined that APEX also lacked required certifications, failed to train its workers on lead-safe work practices, and failed to inform the building owner and occupants of the risks of lead poisoning during that renovation. When APEX was informed of these issues, it provided the EPA with inaccurate information about its RRP Rule compliance. Rather than coming into full compliance with the law, APEX continued to violate the RRP Rule through at least 2021. These alleged violations occurred at low-income residential properties, where tenants are already disproportionately burdened by other environmental hazards.
In the Consent Decree, APEX admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility for the following conduct:
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Pursuant to the Consent Decree, APEX will pay a penalty of $606,706, an amount based on the company’s documented inability to pay the full civil penalty for which it otherwise would be liable. Further, the Consent Decree requires APEX to comply with safe work practices and other RRP Rule requirements in the future and to conduct tenant and worker safety information sessions to mitigate potential harms it caused. Failure to comply with the Consent Decree will give rise to significant additional penalties.
To provide public notice and afford members of the public the opportunity to comment on the Consent Decree, the Consent Decree will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before it is submitted for the Court’s approval.
Mr. Williams thanked the attorneys and enforcement staff at EPA Region 2 for their critical work on this matter.
This case is being handled by the Environmental Protection Unit of the Office’s Civil Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mónica P. Folch and Zack Bannon are in charge of the case.