By Bill Moore, Brandenburg Industrial Service Co.
In recent years, some of the “dream” building projects of our parents and grandparents

have become today’s demolition nightmares because they contained
asbestos, PCB’s or lead paint. As a result, it now often costs more to remediate
industrial sites than it does to demolish them. Here are a few of the more common

environmental concerns associated with demolition:

Asbestos—If your building was built before the mid-70’s, there is a good chance it contains asbestos in insulation, roofing materials, siding, floor tiles, adhesive, caulking and even paint. When planning demolition work, keep in mind that the Federal, State, County and City branches of the EPA require a written 10 business day asbestos notification for all structural demolition. This notification is required whether asbestos exists in the building or not! Except for a few rare instances such as fire and structural damage, EPA regulations mandate that asbestos be completely removed before
a building is demolished. Abatement costs usually range from $10.00 per square / linear foot to $30.00 per square / linear foot. This price differential depends upon local regulations and the accessibility and labor required. Many demolition contractors are also licensed to remove asbestos. This can result in substantial time and cost savings and can avoid disputes because:

• If additional ACM (asbestos containing material) is found during demolition, the job does not have to stop until the abatement contractor returns to finish the work.
• The demo contractor does not have to re-mobilize after the ACM contractor returns.

• The demo contractor can use specialized demolition equipment to open walls, boilers, etc. to access the ACM.

Creosote—Creosote protected railroad ties, wood flooring blocks, etc. are currently exempt from disposal requirements. They can be re-used or ground up and used as ground cover in landfills or incinerated as fuel.

Dust—Is becoming more of a concern, especially in urban areas. In the past, garden hoses, fire hoses, etc. were about the only way to control dust on a demolition site. Now, the technology from snowmaking machines has been adapted to spray a fog by pumping water through nozzles and then

blowing the resultant fog out by compressed air. This fog then encapsulates the dust. Water tank trucks are also used to spray water on the entire site to prevent dust from traffic or to spray water directly on the demolition area.

Fluorocarbons—Because of their damaging effect on the earth’s ozone layer, fluorocarbons such as Freon used in refrigeration / air conditioning systems and Halon used in fire extinguishing systems must also be removed. Depending on the type of fluorocarbons present, they can either be sold or
will require removal and disposal by a licensed specialist.
Lead-Based Paint (LBP)—With the exception of LBP in residential housing, environmental regulations for LBP are currently rather lax compared to asbestos and other hazardous materials. Steel can be recycled and buildings can usually be demolished without first removing paint. Loose
LBP chips do have to be removed and disposed of as special waste. Concrete floors with LBP coatings can be recycled if the percentage of lead is under the limit imposed by local regulations. Batteries and other devices containing large amounts of lead still have a positive cash value.

Mercury—Is found in electrical equipment such as switches, large light bulbs and older tubular
florescent light bulbs. Bulk liquid mercury can currently still be sold. Florescent bulbs containing small amounts of mercury can be ground up to reduce disposal costs. The current cost to dispose of a

single mercury bulb is under $2.00.
Mold—Although there are hundreds of types of mold, there are only a few that represent health hazards. Other than guidance documents from OSHA, there are currently no regulations covering the removal or disposal of mold.
Mud—Many municipalities require streets outside demolition jobs to be kept clean. This is accomplished by washing equipment before it leaves the jobsite or by sweeping the streets
regularly. Some demolition contractors have their own street sweepers or sweeping attachments

for their regular equipment.
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDE S)—The EPA requires that the owner of a
demolition site over one acre, obtain a permit and devise a system to prevent pollutants from leaving the site. This includes providing a silt fence around the site, blocking off sewers, manholes, etc. This is currently one of the most cited violations by the EPA.

Ni-CAD (nickel cadmium) batteries—such as those found in emergency lighting have to be

disposed of separately.

Noise—Although there is no current planned government legislation to make future demolition equipment quieter, two other concerns are forcing manufacturers to reduce noise levels. First, certain European markets have specific noise level restrictions on equipment. Second, there is the chance of future potential third party litigation from employees suffering hearing loss after working around

noisy equipment. In general, newer hydraulic equipment is inherently quieter than the old pneumatic equipment it is replacing. Reduced noise levels are also a positive selling point for manufacturers.
PCB’s (Poly Chlorinated Bi-Phenyls)—are synthetic organic chemicals that were used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, ballasts, and other electrical equipment as well as for additives in paints and other coatings to make them fire-resistive. PCB’s were later found to be carcinogenic and have not been manufactured in the United States since October of 1977. Although there are no current regulations requiring the immediate removal of PCB’s, the EPA has strict
regulations for their disposal. Depending on the concentration of PCB’s (usually under 50 parts per million), they can have a positive value and can be burned as fuel, or they can have a negative value and must be incinerated or land filled in special facilities. With the recent rise in the price of copper
scrap, thieves often target closed industrial facilities in order to steal copper from transformers. Thieves breaking open a PCB transformer case and spilling the PCB oil could result in huge

remediation costs.

Radioactive Materials—Most scrap yards have devices on their scales to detect even the smallest amounts of radioactive materials. Detectable amounts of radiation can be found in demolition scrap containing emergency lighting, certain measurement devices, and even in regular pipes and valves.
Natural occurring radiation can accumulate from years of, for example, crude oil flowing through piping systems. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has special disposal requirements for all radioactive waste. Since 9-11, there is also a security concern that small amounts of radioactive material could be accumulated and used in “dirty bombs”. Underground and Above Ground Storage Tanks (UST’s/ AST’s)—are largely regulated by state and local authorities. Most jurisdictions require registration of all tanks and have detailed procedures for removing them. This may include

witnessing the removal by a licensed engineer, a State Fire Marshall, or other government official. All remaining product in the tanks must be recycled or properly disposed of. Disposal costs for contaminated soil vary. For example, special waste contaminants, such as oil, cost upwards of $50.00 per cubic yard. Meanwhile, hazardous waste contaminants, such as dry cleaning solvent, may cost upwards of $350 per cubic yard.
Vibration—during demolition, vibration is not as big of a concern as most people might think. The Federal Government mandates a vibration limit of 1.0 ips (inches per second) but most municipalities have ordinances that allow even higher limits. Most modern demolition work using hydraulic equipment produces vibration under .10 ips or less than one tenth of the federal limit. As a precaution, seismographs are often installed near demolition jobs and pre-job photos are taken of existing cracks in neighboring buildings.

In conclusion, demolition contractors take environmental regulations very seriously. The U.S. EPA has very stringent regulations and substantial fines for violators of environmental regulations. Fines usually start at $10,000 and can be assessed per day as long as the violation exists. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) commonly known as “Superfund” ( can require potentially responsible parties to remediate sites and pay all related expenses even if they were only partially responsible for the past environmental problems.