A bit about Asbestos

26 Jul 2012

An asbestos evaluation is beyond the scope of most phase I environmental site assessments as they focus on soil and groundwater contamination.   However, you should not ignore asbestos as an issue during acquisitions.  Most environmental consultants will comment on apparently asbestos containing materials (which include such things as insulation, floor tiles, mastic, and roofing materials) including their age and condition.  This is important because under federal regulations, if materials are suspected to contain asbestos, the owner and operator of the building will need to take precautions and typically have an operations and maintenance plan to inspect and maintain the asbestos materials.  Asbestos has been linked to many cancers and that is why this is so serious.

When will materials be suspected to contain asbestos?  Typically, anything built before 1981 is assumed to contain asbestos.  HUD assumes any building built before 1978 contains asbestos and requires an asbestos survey of such buildings and will not fund without a baseline survey and will require a mix of asbestos abatement and an asbestos O&M Plan.

OSHA takes it a bit further, assuming that thermal system insulation and surfacing materials (unless proven otherwise) from a building built before 1981 contain asbestos. and imposing employee protective measures.

EPA takes it one big step further and when conducting demolitions or renovations to buildings other than residential buildings with 4 or fewer units, it requires an evaluation no matter when the building was built to determine what sorts of protective and disposal measures must be taken.

In typical phase I ESAs that deal with asbestos, they often say something like “sampling should be considered prior to a renovation” – while sampling is not necessarily required, a thorough evaluation is before demolition or renovation, or the property owner may face serious consequences.  Yesterday, the Detroit News reported that a project manager faced criminal penalties for improper asbestos removal.  It is possible that others may face civil penalties as well.

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