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Recently, the owner of an unoccupied commercial building scheduled for demolition requested information on his responsibilities for dealing with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) at the building. The following is a short overview of both the regulatory requirements and the typical steps for asbestos removal that a building owner may pursue in dealing with ACMs in or on a building scheduled for demolition.

The National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (commonly referred to as NESHAPs and found in 40 CFR Part 61, subpart M) regulates demolition of “facilities” that may contain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). “Facilities,” as defined by NESHAPs, includes any institutional, commercial, public, industrial, or residential structure or building, except residential buildings having four or fewer units. ACMs are defined in NESHAPs as materials containing more than 1 percent asbestos [as determined by polarized light microscopy utilizing the method specified in EPAs Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) regulation (40 CFR part 763)].


NESHAPs requires that certain ACMs must be removed from a building prior to demolition. These include friable ACMs (such as pipe insulation, boiler and duct insulation, sprayed-on fireproofing, troweled-on finishing, etc.) and nonfriable ACMs that have already become friable prior to the demolition or are likely to become friable during the demolition process. Friable simply means that a material when dry can be crumbled pulverized or reduced to a powder by hand pressure (and will therefore readily release its asbestos fibers from the binding matrix). Nonfriable materials cannot be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to a powder by hand pressure (and thus will not readily release fibers from the binding matrix). Floor tiles, roofing, and various mastics are considered nonfriable (if they are in good condition).

The friable ACMs and nonfriable ACMs that have to be removed prior to demolition of a building are referred to as Regulated Asbestos-Containing Materials (RACM). Not all ACMs must be removed prior to demolition, however. Some materials, called Category I nonfriable ACMs may be left in a demolished building under certain circumstances. Category I nonfriable ACMs include flooring materials, asphaltic roofing products, valve packings and gaskets, and pliable mastics and sealants in good condition. The third category of material, Category II nonfriable ACMs, includes all other nonfriable materials that are not Category I. A common Category II nonfriable material is asbestos-cement products (often referred to as “Transite®”). Like RACM, Category II nonfriable ACM must be removed from a building prior to demolition.

In addition to requiring removal of RACM prior to demolishing a building, NESHAPs has other requirements (notification, emissions control, disposal of asbestos waste, etc.) that must be addressed by building owners.

Enforcement of NESHAPs

NESHAPs is a federal regulation. NESHAPs’ requirements, however, are enforced in nearly every state by a state regulatory agency. In North Carolina, NESHAPs is enforced by the North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources– Health Hazards Control Unit through their North Carolina Asbestos, Rules, Regulations, and Procedures found at 10A NCAC 41C.0600. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control enforce NESHAPs in that state through Regulation 61-86.1, Standards of Performance for Asbestos Projects. In addition to enforcing the mandated federal NESHAPs requirements, most states have added additional regulatory requirements that are specific to the state.

Building Inspections

In order to locate and identify all ACMs in a building prior to demolition, NESHAPs requires that buildings be inspected. Only properly trained AHERA-accredited Asbestos Building Inspectors can perform these inspections. Most states also have licensing requirements that must be met before a Building Inspector can inspect buildings in those states. Although not specified in NESHAPs, some state regulations also require that the building inspection complies with the procedures specified in AHERA (40 CFR 763.86). In these states, inspections not performed according to the AHERA protocol, would not be accepted by the state regulatory agency. Additionally, some states (such as South Carolina) require that building inspections not be over three years old, unless the older inspection was confirmed and verified by a licensed Building Inspector. This makes sense when it is realized that many buildings inspected in the past may not have been inspected using the AHERA protocol, and, even if the AHERA protocol was used, these older inspections may not be representative of the building in its current state (prior to the demolition).

Notification requirements

Except in unique circumstances (such as an ordered demolition), NESHAPs requires that a building owner notify the regulatory agency through a written form at least ten (10) working days before demolition activities begin, even if the building has no ACM. In most instances, the state regulatory agency overseeing the implementation of NESHAPs also requires that a fee accompanies the notification.

Some local (city and county) agencies also may be responsible for enforcing NESHAPs in their areas. These agencies must also be contacted concerning specific local requirements. In some instances, both state and local notification may be required.

Hiring the abatement contractor

By the time a building owner has reached the notification stage of a project, they should have selected a company that specializes in asbestos abatement to perform the actual removal of the ACMs from the building. The abatement contractor would be contractually responsible for removing the ACMs in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations, and to acceptable industry standards. Some abatement companies also have the capability to perform the building demolition after the asbestos removal has been completed.

Hiring an asbestos consultant

Typically a building owner first hires a firm with asbestos experience to oversee the entire asbestos removal process, except for the actual removal itself. This asbestos consulting firm would perform the building inspection to identify, locate, and quantify the ACM in the building, design the removal of identified ACMs, and monitor the removal operations. The asbestos abatement contractor would be hired separately, since a conflict of interest could arise if the asbestos abatement contractor performs any of the other activities on a site (such as inspecting, designing, and monitoring).

Initial inspections

The first priority for the consulting firm would be for an accredited Asbestos Building Inspector or Management Planner to review any previous building inspection reports to ensure that the inspecting procedures and sample analysis of suspect ACMs meet present day standards. Additional samples of suspect materials may be required, or a completely new inspection of the building performed, if major discrepancies are found between the old inspection reports and the current state of the building. Blueprints, “as built” drawings, and old asbestos abatement records may also be researched at this time. A complete, thorough, and accurate inspection report is critical, since this document is relied upon not only to identify ACMs in a building, but is also utilized during the pricing, bidding, and subsequent removal of the identified ACMs.

Asbestos project design and monitoring

Once the inspection report is complete, an accredited Asbestos Project Designer would utilize the report to design the removal of the ACMs from the building. A properly designed asbestos abatement project ensures that the ACMs are not only removed safely and expediently but that the ACMs are removed in compliance with all applicable state and federal asbestos regulations. The project design document (also called the scope-of-work) would typically also be used in the bidding phase of the project. Bids would be solicited for the removal of ACMs based on the project design. In addition to ensuring that bids received are realistic, a well-written project design also ensures that the asbestos abatement contractor that is eventually hired to remove the ACMs knows his responsibilities and what is expected of him during the project.

Based on the complexity of the project and applicable state regulations, a project monitor is typically retained by the building owner to ensure that the asbestos abatement contractor is adhering to the scope-of-work. The project monitor may also be required to collect daily area samples to access airborne asbestos concentrations during the removal phase or collect clearance samples following the project.

Check for additional requirements

In addition to the general overview offered above, other federal, state, and local agencies may have additional requirements and regulations that could impact demolition projects involving ACMs. Building owners should consult only with experienced companies or individuals before making decisions involving asbestos.