When planning a building demolition or renovation project, there are several stages of design and review that architects, engineers and demolition contractors complete before the first hammer is swung. Plans must be drawn, specifications written and the proper permits pulled. One important item that must not be overlooked is the Hazardous Materials Survey.
If you think that a Hazardous Materials Survey is not warranted because the site of your project was not a manufacturing facility or did not generate any “hazardous waste,” you should think again. There are several hazardous components commonly found in buildings, regardless of the property’s past use. Among these are asbestos, lead-based paint, polychlorinated biphenyls (compounds once widely deployed as fluids in electrical apparatuses) and universal waste (containing materials found in batteries, pesticides and mercury-containing equipment and items).
Asbestos and lead-based paint are commonly found in older buildings. Asbestos is most commonly known for its use in fireproofing, insulating and sound-absorbing materials, but it can also be found in a variety of products, such as floor and ceiling tiles, mastic, caulk and “popcorn” ceiling texture. Lead-based paints may be concealed under multiple layers of latex or water based paints, wallpaper or even drywall. The presence of asbestos or lead-based paint may require abatement prior to demolition, special handling procedures and advanced notification of public health agencies.
Likewise, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs for short) were commonly used in older buildings. PCBs are toxic chemicals that were once commonly used in hydraulic oils (such as those used in hydraulic elevators) and dielectric oils in transformers (including those found in fluorescent light ballasts). PCBs are a regulated hazardous substance and must be documented and disposed of as hazardous waste.
Additionally, most buildings contain universal waste, which has special disposal requirements. Mercury-containing items such as fluorescent bulbs and older thermostats should be collected and disposed of properly by a licensed waste handler. Batteries containing toxic metals are present in computer backup systems, emergency lights and fire exit signs. Refrigerants, like those found in air conditioning systems and freezers, may not be released to the atmosphere and must be captured for recovery and reuse by a certified specialist.
Improper disposal of any of these products can harm the environment and often result in hefty fines. So before you begin your next renovation or demolition project, call Tioga to discuss how we can assist you in protecting our environment from harmful chemicals and protecting your company from financial liabilities.