For five seasons, Chip and Joanna Gaines were the darlings of HGTV with their popular home-improvement show “Fixer Upper.” It turns out the Environmental Protection Agency was watching, too.
As the rural Waco, Tex., couple turned old homes into dream homes, the EPA saw a problem. The Christian couple, who have built a brand on honesty, integrity and down-home charm, were falling short when it came to their Magnolia company’s handling of lead-based paint, the agency determined.
“Video footage of Magnolia’s renovations of older homes appearing in several seasons of ‘Fixer Upper’ reviewed by EPA did not depict the lead-safe work practices normally required,” said a statement issued Tuesday by the EPA, which found possible violations in 33 renovated properties.
The agency announced a settlement with Magnolia Waco Properties LLC, doing business as Magnolia Homes, to ensure compliance. Under the agreement, Magnolia will pay a $40,000 civil penalty and spend $160,000 “to abate lead-based paint hazards in homes or child-occupied facilities in the Waco area.”
A Magnolia Homes spokesman said the company began bringing its practices into compliance with the Toxic Substances Control Act after the EPA first made contact three years ago, according to a statement given to People magazine. In addition, the statement said, “Magnolia Homes made the decision to implement a compliance management program.”
The settlement with the EPA also calls for Magnolia to educate the public about lead-based paint hazards. In March, as the final season of “Fixer Upper” was airing, Chip Gaines tweeted a link to finding “certified renovators” who could deal with questions about possible lead-based paint.
“Fixer Upper” was a ratings bonanza for HGTV, so fans were surprised last year when the Gaineses announced they were ending the show, with a final program airing in April. At the time, the couple said they wanted to devote more time to their family, which included four young children.
“While we are confident that this is the right choice for us, it has for sure not been an easy one to come to terms with,” they said in a statement on their blog. “Our family has grown up alongside yours, and we have felt you rooting us on from the other side of the screen. How bittersweet to say goodbye to the very thing that introduced us all in the first place.”
In January, they took to Instagram to announce they were having another baby.
The family lives on a 40-acre farm outside of town. Their business empire includes Magnolia Homes, a real estate and design company, as well as a magazine and retail businesses such as Magnolia Market, which draws an average of 30,000 visitors to town weekly, according to the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau. They have also written best-selling books and have a home goods line, which includes paint.
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