As a demolition contractor working on major projects, the first question asked always seems to be, “Will the project provide positive cash flow, or will it cost monies to perform the work?” The environmental aspects of the project play a large part in answering that question. And how to properly prepare for the various aspects of the environmental work is what my presentation was about during the recent Investment Recovery conference in Memphis.

Demolition involves tearing down, breaking up, imploding, razing structures, and the removal of equipment and construction debris. My presentation consisted of information to assist IR managers in their interaction with building owners, inspectors and demolition contractors as they address the environmental issues from point A to Z.

Safety First!
First and foremost, the work should be performed safely. According to the U.S. Occupational and Safety Administration (OSHA), 4,609 fatalities occur each year in the construction industry…more than 88 per week! Before any outside vendor steps onto your premises, a site-specific Health & Safety Plan (SSHASP) needs to be developed and remain on site for the duration of the demolition project.

Environmental Assessment.
Before construction work begins, a complete environmental assessment is to be performed, with specific guidance as to any potential hazardous materials that could arise throughout the work. It’s important to retain a firm with environmental assessment experience in an industrial-type setting. The assessment involves researching prior and current site utilization to assist in the discovery process. A complete assessment isn’t just an asbestos survey, but should be inclusive of asbestos, lead, PCBs, universal wastes and concrete sampling. If a demolition project is to be performed at your plant, a destructive assessment survey should also be completed.

Green Demolition.
Most people are familiar with LEED™ construction (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Designs), a certification program of the U.S. Green Building Council. My belief is that when demolishing a facility, we should be thinking in terms of obtaining a 100 percent LEED certification, utilizing selective demolition and dismantling strategies to increase landfill diversion, and increasing salvage and recycling opportunities. If you approach demolition this way, you are more likely to improve overall project profitability and contribute to reducing your environmental footprint. (See related article in this issue.)

Remember the Four “Rs”:
Reduce: look for ways waste can be prevented during the work

Reuse: identify waste that can be salvaged for reuse or potentially donated

Recycle: determine and identify recyclable material

Renew: decide what materials can be incorporated into the deconstruction process

Imagine the amount of material generated in a large-scale demolition project. I’ve worked on projects with over 20,000 tons of metals, 800,000 pounds of copper and 70,000 cubic yards of concrete. The potential for environmental and cost-saving measures in the disposition of these materials is numerous. Wood can be shredded and utilized on site or off site and sent to a recycling plant. Reclaimed flooring from old buildings can have surprising value. Used oil can be bulked and reused as heating fuel. Universal wastes and mercury-containing equipment can be recycled. Over 140 million tons of concrete are recycled each year. Concrete can be transported off-site for utilization of future building materials (road base, asphalt pavement, ready-mix concrete). All ferrous and non-ferrous metals can be segregated and transported to steel mills for reuse.

But by far, the largest waste stream to be generated is construction and demolition materials, commonly referred to as C&D. Segregating the various streams (carpet, wood, drywall, etc.) can limit the diversion of waste to the landfill and improve your company’s environmental prudence and sustainability.

Materials management is an integral part of the demolition process and without proper procedures in place, materials can be classified improperly. Remember: Your organization has “cradle-to-grave” responsibility for proper handling and disposition of any hazardous materials and all waste generated during (and after!) the demolition process. Hazardous materials are characterized by ignitability, reactivity, corrositivity, and toxicity. Any product containing elements with any of these potential reactions will have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which should be utilized to assist in this process. Keep manifest copies before the waste is shipped off-site. Make sure you receive the hazardous manifest returned from the waste facility and that your contractor complies with the corporate list of approved landfills, incinerator and transfer stations.

Dealing with Asbestos
Asbestos was a commonly used construction material in the United States until 1982 but was still in inventory and distributed a few years after. Asbestos was an ingredient of ceiling and floor tiles, mastic, paint, boilers, brick, roofing products, pipe insulation…the list seems endless. The EPA states that any product or material which consists of greater then 1 percent asbestos will require abatement procedures to be adhered to. Some states like California can have more stringent regulations. Asbestos abatement is a technical process and can be quite costly.

Commonly found in electrical transformers, paint, concrete and caulking, PCBs are regulated by the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). Disposal options vary based upon the original source and PCB concentration. Dealing with PCBs is a specialty, and many waste disposal facilities do not have PCB disposal as part of their permits. If your project has PCB-containing equipment or material, make sure your disposal facility is prepared and properly permitted.

Mercury is found in pharmaceutical plants, research and development sections of plants and in all power plants. I performed a project at a food manufacturing facility that utilized fish oil for the cosmetic and medical fields. After performing characterization, it was determined that the levels of PCB and mercury prevented the waste to be shipped to a certain landfill due to permitting.

Lead Paint
When testing for lead paint, which is prevalent in many structures, you should validate the absence of PCBs and asbestos. There are devices called XRFs which are hand-held instruments that can detect multiple layers of lead in coatings and give you real-time answers as to what’s underneath that last coat of paint.

Concrete and Soil
The last major waste stream generated in a demolition project is concrete and soil. There are various regulations on a federal and state level which govern disposal standards for these materials. Concrete and soil can be tested in situ, (Latin for “in position”) before demolition to determine contamination and potential segregation and clean up before full work begins.

If soil and concrete meet the standards of “clean,” they can be potentially used for onsite backfill and restoration, saving significantly on landfill costs. Think about the big picture and use best management practices on your demolition project. Is there a spill prevention plan in place with steps to contain and control environmental spills from on-site work?

Has it been determined the site is applicable to stormwater regulations? This is determined via SIC classification and if activity on the project will disturb more than one acre.

Many of the plants we work on have combustible material. Is there a fire prevention plan developed to respond to a situation onsite while the personnel are performing burning?

If there are residential areas or other facilities nearby, be prepared to address noise, traffic flow and dust control. Involve local agencies in this process so they are familiar with your ongoing operation and can respond if there is an emergency.

Maintain compliance with all local, state and federal agencies: Will it be required to perform air monitoring on the perimeters of the work areas? A good idea is to utilize an independent third party monitoring company retained by the owner. While developing the project organization it would be beneficial to utilize some of the plant’s existing personnel to provide the decommissioning /cleaning of the tanks and to drain and purge the lines. It is common to keep one person who has longevity and knowledge of the site operations to assist the demolition contractor through the demolition.

Pick your demolition project partners well. They will make a difference on your project and may make a difference in your life. Proper planning prior to the demolition itself can identify potential pre-existing conditions. Best management practices throughout the demolition process can prevent environmental obstacles, reduce liabilities and can help reduce costs, resulting in a successful demolition project and provide overall improved environmental management practices while limiting your companies’ liability. 

Fred Maier, Associate Director, Panther Technologies, Inc.

Want to learn more? Hear Fred Maier’s new presentation,”Demo for Dummies” at the 2018 Seminar & Trade Show, March 18-21, Orlando, Caribe Royale Resort.