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343 + 2 = Changes in NYC Asbestos Regulations

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 29, 2011 7:22:05 AM

Dale Wilson, CIH, LEED AP, Sr. Project Manager

"343" is a symbol of great sadness to members of the FDNY and their families as 343 is the number of FDNY firefighters who died on September 11, 2001. That staggering figure is remembered quite readily when recalling the events of that day and during the remembrances that have followed.  However, almost six years later, the lives of two additional NY firefighters were claimed during the demolition of the 9/11-damaged Deutsche Bank Building.

The 41-story Deutsche Bank Building stood adjacent to the World Trade Center and was severely damaged by falling debris and smoke when the Twin Towers collapsed. The damage to the skyscraper was so extensive that it had to be demolished. However, as the federal EPA requires, before it could be demolished, all asbestos-containing materials needed to be removed.

By August 18, 2007, demolition was well underway and the building now stood at only 26 stories tall.  Around 3:40 pm, a massive seven-alarm fire broke out as a result of a discarded cigarette in the asbestos decontamination unit on the 17 th floor.  The building had not been inspected by the Fire Department since March, when it should have been inspected every 15 days.  As a result, a crucial but inoperable fire standpipe forced firefighters to raise hoses up from the street to combat the flames.   Inside the building, three firefighters struggled to pull a hose through the deconstructed building. Only one of these men survived. The configuration of the asbestos abatement added to the difficulty of fighting a fire in an already structurally-compromised building.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), completed a description and evaluation of the incident as part of their fire fighter fatality investigation. Several items stand out from the asbestos abatement as contributors to the fire:

  • White plastic sheeting was used to partition the floor area into separate zones.  All these partitions created maze-like conditions for the firefighters.

  • Numerous zones were under negative pressure, as required for asbestos abatement, possibly drawing smoke and fire into localized areas.

  • Stairwell doors were blocked by wooded hatch covers as part of the construction of the asbestos containments.

  • Plastic sheeting, construction debris, and exposed lumber in partitions provided additional fuel.


These contributing conditions created by the asbestos abatement project have been recognized by several authorities, and in an effort to maximize safety, New York City enacted a number of new laws to ensure that asbestos abatement projects are conducted safely.  These laws impact the ways that asbestos projects are filed, approved and inspected, and involve new levels of cooperation among the agencies that oversee asbestos and construction safety:  the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP), the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Fire Department (FDNY).  Most notably, the NYC DEP created the Asbestos -Technical Review Unit (A-TRU) to ensure that asbestos abatement is conducted safely and a new process for filing for asbestos permits called Asbestos Reporting and Tracking System (ARTS).

ARTS enables applicants to submit applications and/or receive approvals (or objections) electronically.  During the application process, applicants are asked questions to identify if

  • the building’s fire protection systems (e.g., fire alarm or sprinkler system) will be turned off as a result of the abatement work,

  • abatement work will result in blocked or compromised egress or whether any components of the fire protection system are going to be removed as part of the abatement

  • abatement work entails removal of passive fire protection (e.g., fire resistance rated walls, sprayed on fireproofing, or smoke dampers)


If there is an impact to any of these fire protection items then a comprehensive Work Place Safety Plan must be developed for the project indicating abatement containment areas and systems, obstructed and temporary exits, tenant protection and a description of any measures that will be taken to mitigate compromised fire protection systems or means of egress. As a final item intended to promote life safety during abatement projects, the asbestos supervisor must inspect exits daily to ensure that there are no exterior blockages or impediments to exiting. If any blockages or impediments are identified, work must stop until the blockage has been removed.  Essentially, deconstruction and asbestos-abatement work cannot compromise the safety of workers and firefighters.

As Carrie Bettinger noted in a past EHSWire blog, “ In our society and legal system it seems that, yes, someone (or many) has to tragically die before change and regulation are considered.” In this case, the tragedy was 343+2. Hopefully the A-TRU process and increased oversight from NYC DEP, DOB, and FDNY will prevent another similar tragedy from occurring.

Postscript:  The last of the Deutsche Bank tower criminal trials were completed in July, 2011. More information can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/nyregion/final-defendant-is-acquitted-in-deutsche-bank-fire-trial.html.
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Topics: indoor air quality, health and safety, Construction H&S, EPA, Emergency Response, Homeland Security, H&S Training, worker safety, regulation, construction, emergency response training, demolition, 9/11, Work Place Safety Plan, asbestos, September 11, Deutsche Bank NYC, A-TRU, 9-11, Fire Safety

For Schools, Summer Time is Asbestos Time!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jun 26, 2011 11:33:00 PM

Dale Wilson, CIH, LEED AP, Sr. Project Manager

Summer vacation is what every student dreams of...no school!  While this may be true for the educational calendar, summer is the time of year when schools generally address their big asbestos issues.  So instead of students and teachers filling the classrooms, they are replaced by a range of very specific professionals that are required to get the job done:  the Local Education Agency (LEA), Designated Person, Inspectors, Management Planners, Remediation Contractors, and Asbestos Safety Technicians/Project Monitors.

Regulations for Asbestos in Schools


Asbestos in schools is regulated by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), promulgated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1986. AHERA applies to all public and private elementary and secondary schools in the United States and requires LEA’s to identify, evaluate and control Asbestos Containing Building Materials (ACBM).  At each school a “Designated Person” is given the responsibility to be in charge of the school's asbestos control program.  The regulation is meant to protect children, as health issues from asbestos are not immediate, but can take decades to appear. The EPA explains on their website:
Although asbestos is hazardous when inhaled, the risk of exposure to airborne fibers is very low. Therefore, removal of asbestos from schools is often not the best course of action. It may even create a dangerous situation when none previously existed. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only requires removal of asbestos to prevent significant public exposure during demolition or renovation. EPA does, however, require an in-place, pro-active asbestos management program for all LEAs in order to ensure ACBM remains in good condition and is undisturbed by students, faculty, and staff.”

Identifying the Problem


The first task of managing asbestos correctly is identifying the location, quantity, and condition of ACBM.  This responsibility is assigned to an AHERA-accredited Building Inspector.  In addition to conducting the initial inspection, Building Inspectors must also re-inspect ACBM every three years. Six- month periodic surveillances are also conducted by a Building Inspector or other individual familiar with the inspection results, such as a member of the custodial staff.  Collectively, the inspections and surveillances help maintain the accuracy of the inventory and identify any damage that requires a response action.

Developing a Plan


The inspection and surveillance results are used by AHERA-accredited Management Planners to develop an Asbestos Management Plan specific to each school.  The Asbestos Management Plan uses the inventory to assess the likelihood of disturbance and recommend appropriate response actions. 

Plan Implementation


Because children are not occupying the school in summer, it is the perfect time to implement response actions that would otherwise disrupt the educational process and present risk. Response Actions include the following activities:

    • Removal

    • Repair

    • Encapsulation

    • Enclosure

    • Operations & Maintenance (O&M)


Response actions are undertaken by licensed firms who employ AHERA-accredited supervisors and abatement workers.  Many states also require the companies to have a state-issued license for asbestos abatement work and supervisors and workers must carry performance identification permits. In many states, oversight of the work is done by a trained professional such as NJ’s Asbestos Safety Technician (AST)/Project Monitor who works for an independent firm (not the abatement company) to ensure that proper procedures are followed, and performs on-going air sampling and final clearance sampling to document that the response action does not release asbestos particles into the school.  After all, the goal of the response action is to make conditions inside of the school safe!

The AHERA Regulations turned 25 this year. I f you want to find out more about asbestos and the regulations that control its presence in your local schools, visit the EPA website or review this list of FAQ.  Asbestos Management Plans are required to be available to the public, and you can receive a copy from your school district just by asking.

Parents, have you heard about an asbestos removal or management plan in your school district?  To learn more about Asbestos management in schools, the EPA publishes an informative “The ABCs about Asbestos in Schools” If you are part of an asbestos management team, do you have some reassuring information to share with concerned parents?
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Topics: indoor air quality, Construction H&S, EPA, Air Monitoring, remediation, asbestos, schools, AHERA, ACBM

Renovations to Older Buildings: Think About Lead Paint (and More) or Repent!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Feb 19, 2011 9:12:51 PM

Genya Mallach - CSP

As part of a standard, pre-work permit inspection by the local township, it was discovered the exterior of a church (and local pre-school) had been painted with lead-based paint!  Unfortunately, the estimates to remove and repaint the church were far beyond the church’s budget. At the acrimonious and finger-pointing church review meeting, a voice suddenly called out, “I’ll take care of it for half the cost of the lowest estimate!” Salvation!

However, when the contractor began the job, he learned that the cost of removal and repainting would be much more than he expected. In a panic, he did not remove the old paint and, to save materials cost, he diluted the new paint by 50% with water!

After the job was completed, a joyous church service was held to honor the contractor. In the midst of the service, a thunderstorm broke out and the congregants began to notice that the paint was literally washing off the building. The bewildered minister raised his arms and called out, “Oh, Lord, what are we to do?"  In reply, a booming voice from above called out, “Re-paint! Re-paint!”

I suppose the EPA heard this story as well because, on April 22, 2008, the EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices when engaging in renovation and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978. Under the rule, beginning April 22, 2010, contractors must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. Individuals can become certified renovators by taking an eight-hour training course from an EPA-approved training provider.

This rule applies to all renovations performed for compensation in “target housing” (housing constructed prior to 1978, except housing for the elderly or persons with disabilities --unless a child of less than 6 years of age resides or is expected to reside) and child-occupied facilities, except for the following:

  1. Renovations in target housing or child-occupied facilities in which a written determination has been made by an inspector or risk assessor that the components affected by the renovation are free of paint or other surface coatings that contain lead equal to or in excess of 1.0 milligrams/per square centimeter (mg/cm2) or 0.5% by weight, where the firm performing the renovation has obtained a copy of the determination.

  2. Renovations in target housing or child-occupied facilities in which a certified renovator, using an EPA recognized test kit and following the kit manufacturer's instructions, has tested each component affected by the renovation and determined that the components are free of paint or other surface coatings that contain lead equal to or in excess of 1.0 mg/cm2 or 0.5% by weight.


Lead poisonings in an office or domestic setting are mostly caused by exposure to lead dust. Here are a few facts:

  • Lead dust settles quickly on floors, window sills and other surfaces.

  • Paint repair can generate lots of lead dust.

  • Broom sweep won't clean up lead dust.

  • Lead-contaminated dust is invisible to the naked eye.

  • Initially, lead poisoning can be hard to detect — even people who seem healthy can have high blood levels of lead. Signs and symptoms usually don't appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated.

  • Lead usually targets the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells (hemoglobin) first. In time, it attacks the nervous system.


BEFORE conducting any renovations on older buildings, it's important to understand the hazards that may be discovered as construction continues. Determining if the interior or exterior paint contains lead, if any materials of construction contain asbestos, and if water intrusion has occurred anywhere in the building during its lifetime (wet building materials are a food source for mold) is the first step toward creating a healthier building.

Emilcott regularly assists clients who face building environment investigations such as indoor environmental quality, asbestos and lead management, microbial contamination and vapor intrusion. Our EHS staff work with building managers to quickly learn how their buildings operate, diagnose conditions, complete inspections of building systems, interview occupants, and advise on the best course of action to ensure that the building is a safe place to live, work or play.

Interested in reading more on keeping buildings healthy? Other EHSWire blog posts about building environments include:
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Topics: Emilcott, health and safety, General EHS, Construction H&S, EPA, H&S Training, Compliance, worker safety, Air Sampling, Mold, asbestos, Exposure, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, lead, lead-based paint

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