The Asbestos Abatement Process: What to Expect

The Asbestos Abatement Process: What to Expect

The production of most asbestos has been illegal in the United States for over 40 years, and it continues to linger to this day, especially in buildings constructed prior to the 1980’s (although there is no official cutoff date for all asbestos in buildings). Common asbestos-containing building materials (ACBMs) found in older buildings include flooring and other finishes, insulation material, fire proofing, roofing products, wall and ceiling materials, and adhesives.

Exposure to this carcinogen is extremely dangerous. The process of removing or mitigating the effects caused by this mineral is called asbestos abatement, but the first step is inspection of the suspect material for the presence of asbestos and determining the level of hazard associated. See our blog, What to Expect During Asbestos Inspection, for more details. Asbestos abatement does not always necessitate removal, because when asbestos is undisturbed and intact, it can often be kept in place with minimal risk of exposure. If there is enough risk present or the ACBM will be impacted by renovation or demolition, a workplan to safely abate the substance needs to be prepared before removing or otherwise handling this toxic substance. It’s crucial to employ experienced professionals to avoid harm to workers or anyone occupying the building.

If you suspect an ACBM on your property, first contact an industrial hygiene firm to provide a licensed inspector to test the suspect material. They will inform you if there is asbestos present in the building by providing a written evaluation detailing where the mineral was found, the extent of its presence, and recommendations for mitigation. Your industrial hygiene firm should be independent of the abatement contractor to avoid the “fox watching the henhouse” situation. If it is determined that ACBM is present and remediation is needed, the industrial hygiene firm will prepare an abatement work plan to be used to solicit bids from qualified asbestos abatement contractors.

Finding an experienced asbestos abatement contractor is important; they must be certified and familiar with the local, state, and federal laws of abatement. The contractor should be licensed by the state in which they are working.

The process of asbestos abatement includes:

Knowing the plan: your abatement contractor will be following the plan set out by the industrial hygienist. It should provide details on how the area will be treated, including the preparation and cleanup process. The work plan should detail all local, state, and federal laws the abatement contractor must abide by during asbestos abatement.

Proper demarcation: Once the plan is in place, your contractors must clearly mark the hazardous area and inform all building occupants to leave the area until completion and clearance testing is performed.

Setting up a regulated work area: Air ducts should be sealed, the HVAC system must be disabled, and any areas not being treated should be securely sealed off with thick plastic sheets along with air pressure differential and filtration. The industrial hygiene firm should inspect the work area preparation prior to the abatement contractor starting actual asbestos removal or repair work.

Removing material: The abatement contractor will utilize hand tools and wet methods to remove or repair the ACBM. During the process, the contractors will wear protective clothing and respirators to protect themselves. The ACBM will be placed into waste disposal bags, sealed, and removed through a decontamination unit designed with a protective lining. They will also establish a decontamination chamber, adjacent to the work area containment, with a shower to be used for exiting the work area.

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuuming: Special vacuums with HEPA filtration intended for asbestos removal work will be used to minimize dispersing of asbestos fibers during the work and for cleaning of surfaces.

Final cleaning: After all ACBM in the work area has been removed (or repaired depending on the project) and all work area surfaces have been fully cleaned with wet methods and HEPA vacuuming, the industrial hygiene firm should perform their independent inspection and also conduct clearance air sampling pursuant to state and federal requirements. The work area barriers and air filtration should not be removed until the clearance testing is complete, and the work area meets the clearance criteria set forth in the abatement work plan.

Post-cleanup: After the clearance criteria is met, the abatement contractor should remove the work area containment barriers and reclean the work area using HEPA vacuuming once again. Upon final completion, you should receive a report from your abatement contractor containing waste shipment records, permits, site logs, and copies of all licensing. You should also receive a report from your industrial hygiene firm including copies of inspection results and laboratory analysis. These records must be kept for compliance with environmental regulations.

This is only a brief summary. To learn more about RPF Environmental and asbestos abatement, contact us today at (888) 293-0619.

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