Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Lisa Garcia, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), announced today that the United States has filed a civil lawsuit against CISNE NY Construction, Inc., CISNE JE Construction, Inc., CISNE Contracting, Inc., and their principals Jose Pancha and Edison Ruilova (together, the “CISNE Defendants”), alleging that the CISNE Defendants repeatedly violated the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) and EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (“RRP Rule”). 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. Lead poisoning—particularly in children—can lead to severe, irreversible health problems. Lead exposure can affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, causing reduced IQ, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, the CISNE Defendants repeatedly violated rules designed to protect children and others from lead poisoning during renovations of residential buildings. Their actions threatened the most vulnerable with severe lifelong injury. This Office will vigorously enforce the laws designed to protect the health of children against violators who disregard the public health and put children at risk.”
EPA Regional Administrator Garcia stated: “EPA recognizes that all people deserve protection from the hazards of lead-based paint, especially our most vulnerable communities. This case involves allegations of multiple violations in hundreds of NYC apartments. Reducing childhood lead exposure and addressing associated health impacts are one of EPA’s top priorities and we are committed to the robust enforcement of standards that are intended to protect individuals and families.”
The Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court alleges that the CISNE Defendants repeatedly failed to use legally required safety precautions when renovating apartments that are presumed by law to contain lead paint because they were built prior to 1978. EPA and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inspectors observed that the CISNE Defendants failed to contain debris and dust during their work, creating exposure hazards. Construction dust was found not just in the units being worked on, but also in the public hallways accessible to other building residents. Testing demonstrated that dust exceeded both local and federal safety standards. The CISNE Defendants also failed to post warning signs at these jobs or take other steps required by law to protect tenants and workers. In all of this, the CISNE Defendants risked exposing tenants and workers to lead paint dust and violated TSCA and the RRP Rule.
The Complaint also alleges that for years, in violation of TSCA and the RRP Rule, the CISNE Defendants performed renovations in New York City apartment buildings without the training and certifications required to perform such work, and that they failed to provide EPA with legally mandated records that would allow EPA to audit their work.
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The Complaint filed by the United States seeks an injunction barring the CISNE Defendants from performing further work governed by the TSCA and the RRP Rule without complying with mandated safety requirements. The Complaint also seeks an order requiring the CISNE Defendants to mitigate the harms caused by their prior illegal renovation work.
This case is being handled by the Environmental Protection Unit of the Office’s Civil Division. Assistant United States Attorney Zack Bannon is in charge of the case.