EPA Releases Plan to Test Alternative Method to Remove Asbestos

EPA has announced plans to test an alternative method for removing asbestos from older buildings during demolition, which if successful may serve as an alternative to the current National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for demolition of buildings containing asbestos.

EPA submitted a draft Quality Assurance Project Plan for external review for the Alternative Asbestos Control Method demonstration project, which will be evaluated and compared to removal techniques previously authorized by NESHAP.

If successful, the newer method could allow the safe demolition of many abandoned buildings around the nation that present serious risks to nearby residents, agency officials said. Using the Alternative Asbestos Control Method, these former contaminated areas would then be available for redevelopment, creating jobs and tax revenues for communities.

The newer method will be tested in spring 2006 at a remote location at Fort Chaffee, Ark., chosen to assure no public exposure. Buildings on the east side have a clearance of approximately 1,000 feet from the nearest occupied site, and far greater in all other directions. The demonstration will include extensive environmental monitoring, that allows for a representative of the city, state health department, or EPA to stop work if conditions so merit.

The Alternative Asbestos Control Method first removes the most friable (easily crushed to a powder) asbestos-containing materials before demolition, but leaves some asbestos containing materials (primarily wall systems) in place. Then the demolition proceeds using water containing agents similar to detergents to increase the water's ability to penetrate dust layers and surfaces, trap asbestos fibers and minimize their potential release to air.

The project is a joint effort of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Department of Energy and EPA. Public involvement is an important component for project success, and there will be opportunities for stakeholder input throughout the work.

A 30-day public comment period started on Dec. 8. All comments received will be provided to the external peer review panel for consideration. Additional information on the research project is available at http://www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/asbestos.htm. The draft plan is available through the federal government's electronic public docket and comment system at http://www.regulations.gov and can be located by searching for the docket number: EPA-HQ-ORD-2005-0028.

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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