(Adds details on investigation, EPA comment, share price)
WASHINGTON, April 17 (Reuters) - Home improvement retail chain Lowe's Home Centers has agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty for violating rules governing lead paint exposure, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice said on Thursday.
The company also agreed to implement a new compliance program at more than 1,700 stores nationwide, the agencies said.
An EPA investigation found that Lowe's could not provide documentation to prove that contractors it hired to work in nine states were certified by the agency or had used its approved kits to test for lead paint at work sites, the EPA said.
"Today's settlement sends a clear message to all contractors and the firms they hire: Get lead certified and comply with the law to protect children from exposure to dangerous lead dust," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Lowe's did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lowe's shares were near steady on the day, at $49.48, in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Julia Edwards, Valerie Volcovici and Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Will Dunham)