Regulatory Update: Minnesota Agencies Address Dishwater Air Gap, Building and Energy Codes, Lead Paint and Construction Waste

Plumbing Code

The Minnesota Board of Plumbing’s Ad-Hoc Rulemaking Committee, which operates under the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), is in the final phase of reviewing the state’s plumbing code. The Committee has recommended making the dishwasher air gap optional, with an added option of allowing the discharge line to be run as high as possible under the cabinet.

In December 2018, Housing First Minnesota submitted a proposal to the DLI to remove the air gap requirement. At the Committee’s Jan. 14 meeting, Committee members agreed and recommended making the change.

While significant, the recommendation remains a proposal, and meetings of the Ad-Hoc Rulemaking Committee are slated to continue through April, with the first draft of the code available later this year.

Building Code and Energy Code

Proposed changes to Minnesota’s building code are expected to be made available later this year by DLI. Housing First Minnesota made several recommendations with regard to the building code, with a focus on the challenge of affordability. A decision on adopting a new energy code is also expected later this year, but hinges on an evaluation by the U.S. Department of Energy. Again, Housing First Minnesota was engaged in the process, urging steadiness as appropriate given the affordability crisis.

Minnesota’s new building code and energy code are expected to go into effect in March of 2020.

RRP/Lead Paint

After more than a year of work, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is now in the final stages of taking custody of the RRP/Lead Paint Rule. This important regulation regarding homes constructed prior to 1978 presently is in the hands of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) out of Chicago. But within the past few months, EPA and MDH have agreed on a framework to make rule enforcement local.

Housing First Minnesota has been deeply engaged in the process, providing input and suggestions. The initial draft of the Minnesota RRP Rule was released in mid-2017. Shortly thereafter, representatives of Housing First Minnesota met with senior EPA officials to share concerns over the direction taken by MDH. A primary concern was the dramatic increase in remodeling costs the proposal would have generated, with no increase in protection.

MDH held a large stakeholder meeting in August 2017. Prior to that meeting, Housing First Minnesota presented two alternative drafts of the rules based on what other states have done. The last publicly available draft of the Minnesota RRP Rule was published in late December 2017. Housing First Minnesota has continued to share its insights and concerns with MDH throughout the process.

Construction and Demolition Refuse

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is considering new regulations for construction and demolition waste. Following an initial meeting in January the agency is now preparing a report on groundwater quality near construction and demolition landfills. The outcome of this report, scheduled for spring 2019, will guide any formal rulemaking by MPCA. The agency’s concern is the possibility that groundwater near construction demolition landfills is becoming contaminated.

In addition to any formal action taken through rulemaking and regulations, the MPCA is also looking to develop construction and demolition reuse and recycling programs. Construction site waste includes materials such as concrete, bricks, wood and lumber, roofing, drywall, landscape and other wastes.

It is not yet clear how the construction and demolition waste considerations or the reuse and recycling program will affect industry practitioners. But Nick Erickson, regulatory affairs manager at Housing First Minnesota, said the association will continue to be vigilant to ensure that whatever is proposed is done with the goal of affordability in mind. More information is available at https://www.pca.state.mn.us/waste/construction-and-demolition-waste.