The company behind the popular Indianapolis-based HGTV show “Good Bones” must pay a $40,000 fine for allegedly violating a federal lead paint law, according to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency.
The EPA announced Friday that it had reached a settlement with Two Chicks and a Hammer, Inc. — the company founded by mother-daughter duo Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak Hawk — to resolve the alleged violations depicted on the show.
Beginning in 2017, the company performed renovations at three different properties in the city. Two were in the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood and the other west of Fall Creek Place. All three homes, however, were built prior to 1978, when the federal government banned lead-based paint.
The EPA alleges that Two Chicks and a Hammer performed its renovations at these properties without complying with requirements in the federal Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. More specifically, the consent agreement order says that the company was not certified to perform this work and that it failed to properly contain and transport the waste to prevent the release of lead dust and debris.
"Compliance with federal lead paint laws is essential to protect children across the country and is a priority for the EPA,” said Debra Shore, administrator for EPA Region 5 that contains Indiana, in a statement. “With so many people watching TV shows like these for tips on remodeling their own homes, it’s extremely important for these shows to demonstrate lead-safe work practices.”
The agency was unable to immediately respond to IndyStar questions about how many other Indianapolis companies had been cited for violations to the lead paint rule, or how the $40,000 fine compared to others involving similar allegations. In determining the amount, according to the settlement, the agency considered the circumstances, extent and gravity of the alleged violations.
Reducing childhood lead exposures is a high priority, the EPA said. The settlement supports the agency’s continuing commitment to achieving that goal and reducing associated health impacts.
Research shows that lead can cause irreversible and life-long effects, including decreasing IQ, focus and academic achievement in children. While lead is dangerous to all children, the EPA said that its harmful effects disproportionately impact environmentally overburdened and low-income families and communities.
Hawk said that her company has no control over the editing process of the show and that what is portrayed represents only a highlight reel that shows 42 minutes of a six month process. She said the company has “always taken all precautions” when dealing with hazardous materials when demolishing structures.
But “that part of the process isn’t ‘interesting’ enough to make the TV cut,” Hawk told IndyStar. “We value our buyers’ safety and recognize the importance of the EPA and the importance of builders following safe building practices.”
The company agreed to pay the penalty, but in doing so did not admit or deny the specific allegations, according to the settlement.
Since being contacted by EPA in 2018, the company has obtained the necessary certification under the lead rule and has agreed to comply with the rule in all future renovation activities.
Indianapolis company under more scrutiny
In addition to the $40,000 civil penalty, Two Chicks and a Hammer also must produce a video about renovations involving lead-based paint that features Hawk. The company is required to share that video — and another about protecting children from lead exposure — on its social media channels.
Good Bones is not the only HGTV show that has had run-ins with the EPA over lead issues. The agency has settled several lead rule enforcement cases with other programs in recent years, including Magnolia Homes, Rehab Addict and Bargain Mansions.
The Indianapolis reality show has also faced recent scrutiny after being criticized for its role in gentrifying the Fountain Square and Bates Hendricks neighborhoods. Hawk and Laine have renovated more than 100 homes around the area since they began Two Chicks and a Hammer in 2007.
Those neighborhoods have seen skyrocketing real estate prices and bidding wars in the last few years, IndyStar reported, which displaces long-time residents who can no longer afford to live there. They then are pushed farther from the revitalized areas, amenities, job opportunities and services.
Several researchers and residents say they believe the show has played a part, while Laine told IndyStar she does not see it that way. She said they are helping to rehabilitate vacant housing stock and raising neighboring property values.
Call IndyStar reporter Sarah Bowman at 317-444-6129 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @IndyStarSarah. Connect with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Join The Scrub on Facebook.
IndyStar's environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Company on HGTV show must pay fine for alleged lead paint violation