SOURCE: Covino Environmental Associates

May 22, 2006 13:27 ET

Building Owners Must Heed Asbestos Risks When Cleaning Up After Massachusetts Floods

WOBURN, MA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 22, 2006 -- Building owners who are cleaning up following last week's floods in the Merrimack Valley and north shore communities need to be careful not to create an environmental hazard when removing materials, particularly those that may contain asbestos or mold.

"Since mold will start to grow within wall cavities and enclosed spaces after being wet for as little as 24 to 48 hours, many building owners are looking to remediate the problem as soon as possible," said Sam Covino of Covino Environmental Associates, Inc. "They should be aware, however, that cutting out walls and ripping up flooring finishes could release asbestos, leading to more environmental hazards.

"Unless these materials are removed and disposed in accordance with federal and state regulations, building owners could face significant delays in reoccupying affected building areas as well as significant regulatory and liability risks."

Buildings are likely to contain asbestos, he noted, since asbestos has been used, and continues to be used, in a wide range of products.

Some of the more common types of asbestos-containing materials routinely encountered during selective demolition of commercial buildings include wall and ceiling plaster, textured ceiling finishes, fireproofing, cement board products, joint compound applied to gypsum board walls and ceilings, fire-rated doors, floor tile (both 9" x 9" and 12" x 12"), ceiling tile, sheet flooring, thermal insulation on pipes, tanks, boilers, breeching, etc, and various types of construction adhesives such as flooring mastics and wall paneling and base molding adhesives.

Covino said that building owners should check their building records to learn if materials containing asbestos were used in the construction of those structures. If such records are unavailable, building owners are advised to have damaged materials tested for asbestos before attempting to remove them.

According to Mass. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations, owners of buildings in Massachusetts are required to keep asbestos in good repair to prevent release of visible or particulate asbestos emissions. If demolition, renovation, or repair activity could cause damage to asbestos-containing material, then the asbestos must be removed beforehand.

In emergency situations, such as the recent flooding, the DEP will often waive their normal 10-day notification period to allow the asbestos removal to begin immediately.

When engaging a contractor or company to remove asbestos, be sure they are licensed and certified by the Mass. Division of Occupational Safety (DOS) to handle asbestos and will follow state guidelines for handling asbestos, Covino advised. Only DOS licensed and DOS certified asbestos abatement contractors and consultants may be hired to perform asbestos-related work in Massachusetts.

Any reputable contractor or consultant will gladly provide copies of their licenses and certifications, Covino said.

Mold Remediation Recommendations

When remediating mold problems, Covino recommends removal of any porous building materials, such as gypsum board or fibrous glass insulation, which exhibit moisture damage, mold growth, or contamination.

Accordingly, porous building materials that have been wet for more than 24 to 48 hours, or that were exposed to excess moisture for a prolonged period of time, should be removed using engineering controls.

"Mold remediation should be performed in accordance with the most current industry standards and guidelines. These guidelines provide recommendations for contractor qualifications and training requirements, worker protection, work area containment/engineering controls, work methods, and post-remediation verification sampling," Covino said.

About Covino Environmental Associates

Covino Environmental Associates, Inc. (www.covinoinc.com) based in Woburn, Mass., provides industrial hygiene, indoor air quality, occupational health, and related consulting services to manufacturers, construction companies, health care facilities, universities, and property managers in public and private institutions located throughout New England. Established in 1985, Covino Environmental's professional staff of industrial hygienists, microscopists, and lead and asbestos professionals provide 24-hour-a-day service.

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