The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Destination Maui agreed to a settlement totaling $55,000 over the failure of the rental agent and homeowner association management company to notify tenants in eight Maui properties about the potential presence of lead paint.
In the announcement Wednesday, the EPA said Destination Maui agreed to a $5,500 fine and to spend about $49,500 to fund testing of 350 uninsured children for lead exposure and to provide blood lead analysis equipment to three community health clinics run by Malama I Ke Ola Health Center, which services low income and homeless residents. The program will run for the next three years and target uninsured children under 6 years old.
"More than half a million children in America have blood lead levels that can lead to learning disabilities and behavior problems," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "Household paint is the main source of exposure, so it's crucial for landlords to provide tenants the information they need to protect their families from lead poisoning."
Ronald A. Kawahara, president of Destination Maui, said Thursday that the violations were "simply clerical errors."
"The rental agent got careless," he said. "I admitted to it."
Kawahara explained that his company, which manages 150 long-term rentals, failed in the eight cases to either obtain signatures from renters confirming receipt of EPA pamphlets with information on the possible presence of lead-based paint or to have the proper boxes checked on forms.
These properties were built before 1978, when the EPA banned lead-based paint. Federal law requires that people and entities that sell or rent housing built before 1978 provide lead hazard information to buyers or tenants, the EPA said.
An EPA inspection in 2011 found that the company did not provide information about the potential presence of lead-based paint before leasing eight properties in Kahului, Kihei, Wailuku, Lahaina, Makawao, Kula and Haiku. These actions violated the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA said.
The inspection of Destination Maui was one of several conducted in May 2011 at Maui property management firms that rent older housing that may have a risk of lead hazards, the EPA said.
"We were fully cooperative," said Kawahara. "I readily agreed to the settlement."
He noted that the EPA initially mentioned fines of as much as $190,000 but ended up with the $55,000 settlement total following mediation and other discussions.
Kawahara had no problem spending the money and getting uninsured children tested for lead poisoning.
"We are very community-service minded," he said. "I don't mind spending that and even more."
Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity and other harmful health effects, according to the EPA. Because such effects may not be immediately apparent in young children, testing is recommended to identify lead poisoning and to take action to prevent further harm.
As a result of the EPA investigation, Kawahara said his company had taken steps to prevent another occurrence. Documents are reviewed by the broker, and the company uses different-colored folders for properties built before and after 1978.
For additional information on lead in paint and Toxic Substances Control Act requirements, go to the EPA website www2.epa.gov/lead.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.