When a construction crew tears down a building, attention needs to be paid to the materials removed during the demolition phase. Some of them, such as items that contain asbestos, asphalt roofing shingles and pavement rubble, carpeting and items containing mercury, require special handling before they go into the dumpster for disposal or recycling. This article, Part I, covers asbestos-containing materials.
Items Containing Asbestos
Asbestos is classified as a “special waste” under Mass DEP solid waste regulations. Any materials containing 1% or more asbestos by weight or contaminated with asbestos require special handling and transporting as set out in Mass DEP regulations. These materials can only be disposed of in landfills that have been approved to accept asbestos-containing waste materials. Mishandling of asbestos may also be a violation of regulations.
At the demolition site, items that can be asbestos containing include (but are not limited to) heating system insulation, floor tiles and vinyl sheet flooring, mastics, wallboard, joint compound, decorative plasters, asbestos containing siding and roofing products and fireproofing.
In order to remove asbestos materials from a construction site one usually needs to break them up. This runs the risk of allowing asbestos fibers to get into the air.
Breathing in airborne asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer and other diseases. There is no known safe level of exposure. Its fibers break down into filaments up to 1,200 times thinner than a human hair. When inhaled, these fibers become trapped in lung tissues. Medical research tells us that up to 30 years after inhalation, asbestos fibers can still cause breathing problems and heart failure.
If asbestos-containing materials are in good condition, they don’t pose a health hazard. The best way to deal with this substance is to leave it in place and work around it, if possible. However, if a building contains asbestos, demolition of the building requires that all asbestos be removed prior to demolition.
The best way to determine whether a building contains asbestos is to hire a Mass DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) certified DOS (Division of Occupational Safety) consultant. He or she will take material samples, test them, offer guidance on their removal and provide direction on all the forms and notifications required by the state.
To learn more about the detailed steps necessary in removing asbestos take a look at this comprehensive guide from the Puget Sound Clean Air Organization.
Handling Asbestos Materials
Once the asbestos waste materials have been separated from the site and prior to disposal , they must be wetted, then sealed into leak tight dumpsters, or “double-bagged” by placing the asbestos into a (6 mil) plastic bag, which is then placed in another (6 mil) plastic bag and then placed into a sealed dumpster. Contaminated clothing and equipment must also be handled this way. Each bag or container must be individually labeled with all proper identifying and warning labels required by Mass DEP, DOS, OSHA, EPA and DOT.
It’s also important to know that asphalt, brick, or concrete (ABC) rubble containing asbestos may not be crushed for the dumpster, regardless of whether the asbestos is separate debris, a component of the rubble contained in a coating or combined in the rubble. Mass DEP solid waste regulations define asphalt, brick and concrete rubble and regulate crushing operations.
These materials are regulated as a special waste and must be disposed in an approved Mass DEP landfill that has been specifically permitted to accept asbestos-containing waste material.
Graham Waste provides roll-off dumpsters for asbestos. Contact us for details.
For more information about the Commonwealth’s regulations on asbestos removal, visit the Mass DEP page.