Updated: Jul 17, 2019
Improper Handling of Asbestos can be a Costly Mistake for Owners
Asbestos, once a common substance used in American construction because of its versatility and affordability, becomes toxic when it ages or is disturbed. Inhalation or ingestion of the fibers is a known cause of mesothelioma and lung cancer. In 1971, asbestos was declared a hazardous pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and federal safety regulations and the Clean Air Act contain rules and specific regulations for removal of asbestos-containing materials (ACM).
Unfortunately, more and more owners are knowingly mishandling asbestos and paying the price. Recent scandals in New York, involving 40 buildings and resulting in 17 arrests for falsifying inspection documents, have exposed property owners engaging in illegal practices in order to certify sites as asbestos-free. Another case in Massachusetts resulted in $100,000 in civil penalties for a Boston-area landlord who hired an unlicensed contractor for asbestos removal. A similar situation occurred at a Seattle hotel, where the property owner hired untrained and uncertified workers to remove ACM; as a result, the owner served 15 months in prison and incurred hefty fines.
$1.47 million in Pittsburgh. $1.3 million in Baltimore. Almost $2 million in Illinois. Record-high penalties are being levied against property owners, construction companies, and anyone else involved in improper asbestos removal. Speaking about a 2016 case in Indianapolis, a United States Attorney said, “Asbestos is a dangerous substance, and putting people at risk by illegally removing it is a federal crime. If you must remove asbestos, do it the right way and follow the law. If you cut corners and try to save a buck, you will be caught and prosecuted.”
The bottom line is there’s no easy way out when it comes to removal of ACM. Although it may impact project deadlines and costs, demolitions or renovations require thorough inspection before work can begin in accordance with National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). If property owners fail to follow these complex regulations and take safety precautions, they can be held liable.
If you suspect you have asbestos:
Ensure you’re aware of current regulatory standards to avoid liability. Asbestos is regulated at the federal, state, and local levels.
Check your state laws and only use state-certified contractors with certified workers and proper safety equipment and procedures.
Do not try to remove ACM yourself. Nova’s group of asbestos professionals is dedicated to consulting, testing, and control design for ACM.
See more about Nova’s expertise in asbestos management and the comprehensive services we offer at https://www.novagroupgbc.com/health-safety.
Additional information about NESHAP regulations and O&M guidance can be found on the EPA website at https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/information-owners-and-managers-buildings-contain-asbestos.
Brian Meyer | Hazardous Materials Group | E-mail | 651-334-8133