Asbestos Site Cleanup Framework

There is much discussion around EPA asbestos programs, assessments, and cleanups. Those who live in areas contaminated with asbestos have every right to be concerned about the particulars of EPA framework. Scientists and medical experts agree that there is no set safe level of asbestos exposure in contact with the human body. Though much research has been done on the subject, the biological effects of asbestos on disease development are still widely disputed. Exposure is directly linked to devastating illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, and is causally linked to numerous cancers, including ovarian, lung, and gastrointestinal cancers.

Exposure may occur through a number of channels. Because asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral, many deposits exists throughout the country’s organic environment, and exposure may occur through disturbance of these deposits, through natural erosion or other soil disturbances. Exposure may occur by demolition or renovation of buildings that contain asbestos materials (those built before 1979). The third main route of exposure is in the presence of old factories that produced asbestos or manufactured products that contained asbestos. EPA’s Technical Review Workgroup Asbestos Committee authors many documents outlining the steps and framework involved in their asbestos activities. One of these documents provides a general overview of the initial steps in EPA’s asbestos framework. Asbestos exposure attorneys urge the public to become familiar with these steps to better understand your risk of exposure.

Step 1 - Review historical and current data: is asbestos exposure a concern

  • Does (did) the site use asbestos or materials contaminated with asbestos?
  • Do site buildings contain asbestos-containing material (ACM) or asbestos?
  • Does the asbestos contamination at the site fall outside the purview of other authorities?
  • Is the site located within or near naturally-occurring asbestos (NOA) deposits?

Consider:
Historic documents from facility operations Products that facility produced Visual inspection of facility Review of previous environmental sampling that may have occurred Interview current people who work on the site or live nearby

Step 2 - Has there been (or is there a threat of) a release? Including:

  • Airborne release of fibers or disposal of asbestos-containing solid wastes ACM-building debris remains on site
  • Disturbance of naturally occurring asbestos by human activities (e.g., construction)
  • Commercial operations that transported or received products that contained asbestos
  • Asbestos-containing building materials in poor condition
  • Disturbance of soil that contains naturally occurring asbestos
  • Potential for release into environment and/or deposition in indoor environments

Step 3 - Is human exposure likely under current or future site conditions? Are human exposure pathways currently present and complete?

  • Begin with current receptors that may come in contact with contaminated materials.
  • Identify workers, trespassers, recreational activities, nearby residential buildings
  • Estimate potential future uses of the property
  • Generally, a pathway would be considered to be complete unless there is no activity possible at the site or if the contaminated media is unavailable for contact (e.g., under pavement)

Step 4 - Preliminary (screening level) environmental sampling

  • PLM source sampling and activity based sampling at a location with high source concentration and under conditions of high-end disturbance
  • Collect environmental data using a generic activity-based sampling method
  • Raking or a site-specific activity is preferred method for outdoor
  • Air sampling with fans is the preferred method for indoor
  • May also collect soil samples for determination of percentage of asbestos to better characterize the nature and extent of contamination

Step 5 - Environmental sampling: site-specific activity based sampling for indoor and outdoor scenarios

  • Following a quality air pollutant procedure, conduct activity based sampling to determine air concentration to support risk based site evaluation
  • Collect more site-specific data to determine the appropriate response
  • Use of actual site-specific scenarios that are expected to occur on the site
  • Samples collected over a larger area and/or frequency of sampling increases to obtain a better estimate of site-wide exposures

Step 6 - Implement response action and/or institutional controls

  • A variety of options are available, including:
  • Remove soil or contaminated material
  • Install a permanent cap over the contaminated areas
  • Place institutional controls on the property that restrict use of (and therefore exposure to) the contaminated areas
  • Combination of above

This is a very broad overview of the steps taken by the EPA. If you developed a disease because of exposure to asbestos, contact an experienced lung cancer attorney at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today for a free legal consultation.

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