Mishandling of Hazardous
Materials and Contaminants, Asbestos, Lead, Mold, Fungus and PCB's
Canada and the United States Hazardous Materials are being removed improperly
contaminating the buildings we occupy. The hazardous materials including asbestos, lead
paint, mould and fungus are removed improperly, overlooked, ignored or are disregarded by
unscrupulous building owners, corporate executives, their representatives, building and
property managers because of limited budgets, lack of knowledge, greed or contempt for
worker or public health and safety.
high Costs of Litigation and possible prosecution of building owner s, (Corporate
Executives, Building Owners, Plant & Maintenance Managers, Property Managers,
Architects and Consulting Engineers or their representatives) should be enough of a
deterrent but is not. Potentially those owners or their representatives that do not assess
the high risk of possible hazards materials prior to renovation or demolition projects can
lead to personal and corporate exposure and liability.
In most cases,
General Liability Insurance and Errors and Omissions Insurance policies DO NOT cover
Pollution and Environmental Hazards. Most General Contractors rarely carry any
environmental and pollution coverage.
the high litigation costs, also prosecution under the Occupational Health & Safety Act
for mishandling Hazardous Materials is becoming a major problem in Canada. Although, it is
nowhere as frequent or as costly as it is the United States.
CASE Improper Asbestos Removal done at over 200 Buildings!
An asbestos removal contractor, 12 individuals from two companies arrested and charged
pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud, to violations of federal clean air standards for
removing, transporting and disposing of asbestos over 10 years, in Albany, New York.
Joseph Thorn of Renssellaer, the owner of A+ Environmental Services, was arrested and
charged with money laundering in connection with supervising illegal abatement projects at
more than 130 sites. He faces a possible 65 Year prison sentence and up to a $ 6 Million
Dollar fine. He was released on $ 25,000.00 bail.
The U.S. Attorney
Daniel French stated; "The breadth of the criminal violations are shocking. The
willingness of these defendants to place workers, children and the public at risk is
unconscionable. They are criminal, they were driven by greed, their behavior was
removal at more than 200 buildings, in upstate New York, workers were untrained, falsified
air-quality tests and neglected to file proper paperwork to alert health authorities, the
U.S. Attorney's Office announced after a widespread probe into the industry another
several hundred buildings could be affected including many schools, fire stations, public
buildings homes, state office complexes and private homes. No publication of the buildings
would be announced publicly until all building owners were notified.
Although in the
United States, prosecution under the EPA/Occupational Health & Safety Act for
mishandling Hazardous Materials is becoming more prevalent. In Canada, you have a better
chance of being hit by lightning.
ACTION LITIGATION TOXIC MOLD
MOLD On July 2, 1999 an announcement of a class action lawsuit for exposing children to
Toxic Mold by parents against a local School Board outside the Toronto area is seeking
damages for up to $ 1 Billion Dollars.
However, as recent as September 21, 1999, a Calgary Steel Company Executive has been
ordered arrested and a Canada wide warrant for his arrest has been issued, for unsafe
handling of Asbestos.
LEGISLATION FINES and LICENSING
We require tougher federal and State/Provincial government legislation, licensing and more
enforcement officers in the field with the authority to impose tougher fines and charges.
Today, the fines to unscrupulous owners, contractors and consultants are minimal and
catching them is even harder.
and OUTDATED LEGISLATION IN CANADA
In Canada, there is inadequate current legislation or it is totally outdated on hazardous
materials that cause serious health problems such as mold, asbestos and lead paint just to
mention a few!
In the United
States, they have the legislation, but obviously the problem is catching the offenders.
Due to a lack of
government legislation and enforcement this practice of Mishandling Hazardous Materials
continues on an almost daily basis across Canada and the United States.
The public or personal exposure to Hazardous Materials such as Asbestos, Lead Paint, Lead
& Heavy Metals Dust, Pharmaceutical & Medical Waste, PCB s, MTBE in drinking water
because of gasoline from leaking Underground Storage Tanks, Toxic Mold and Fungus, and
environmental contamination as a result of fires in industrial and manufacturing
facilities, where chemicals mix and burn. All these Toxic and Hazardous Materials could
result in serious short and long-term health problems.
The threat of
prosecution, fines, costs of Litigation to Corporate Executives, Building Owners, Plant
& Maintenance Managers, Property Managers, Architects, Consulting Engineers and
contractors or their representatives, that do not assess the high risk of possible
Hazards, can lead to personal and corporate exposure and liability should be there, but
the fines are small usually and only if they are caught and prosecuted!
procedures By following some very simple proactive procedures, you can limit your
exposure as an owner, a corporate executive, a property manager, an Architect and or
Engineer. In buildings constructed before 1985, recognize that hazardous materials
including Asbestos, Lead, Mould & Fungus, Underground Storage Tanks and PCB's exist in
many residential, commercial, industrial and institutional structures as common building
and insulating materials.
Environmental Investigations Prior to building retrofits or demolition,
environmental investigations can prevent any work delays, Ministry of Labor Stop Work
Orders, can promote worker health & safety and can prevent potential professional
exposure and liabilities for architects, consulting engineers and building owners.
Hazardous Materials Architects and Consulting Engineers are licensed and
responsible professionals; therefore you must be aware of and identify the presence or
absence of these materials when dealing with building retrofits. Failure to advise your
client(s) or the contractors working on a project of the presence of hazardous
materials in and /or on a property may present you with potential future liabilities
and a costly litigation process, where you are not covered by insurance. In some cases the
Federal and Provincial regulations and legislation is not up to current accepted industry
standards. It is your obligation to protect the interests of your clients(s), the
contractors, the health & safety of workers, the building occupants and the natural
Environmental Contractors You can eliminate your exposure and liability by
completing all the environmental investigations prior to the tendering process. In
tendering specifications include these findings, with an Environmental Scope of Work and
Remedial Action for all Hazardous Wastes and stipulating in the use of approved
pre-qualified environmental professionals during the project.
Pre-Qualification Documents or CCA-11 Pre-Qualification using the Canadian
Construction Document "Canadian Standard Form of Contractors Qualification Statement
CCA- Document # 11- Includes current and past references, performance bond facilities,
bank and financial information accompanied by the verification of proper Environmental and
Pollution Insurance Coverage. CHECK REFERENCES!
Independent Environmental Consultants are available to perform assessments for
hazardous materials and other potential environmental concerns on residential, commercial,
and industrial properties. Each assessment includes sampling of all suspected hazardous
materials, confirmatory laboratory analysis and complete reporting of all findings. They
can also complete specifications and tender packages for any required remedial activities
and perform project management services.
constructed prior to 1985 may contain hazardous materials such as asbestos, lead,
mould and fungus, PCB s and may also contain Urea Formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI).
Older buildings, which were previously heated with oil, may have underground storage tanks
(UST s) remaining on the property. These are common occurrences to which all architects
and Consulting Engineers should be aware and ensure all building owners and contractors
are informed prior to the start of any retrofit project. Hazardous materials
represent potential serious health hazards for contractors, costly environmental hazards
for building owners and potential liabilities to architects and engineers.
may be found in many forms both inside and outside a building. Inside asbestos may take
the form of paper or hard block insulation on hot water piping, heating ducts or as molded
pipe fitting insulation and joint compounds on furnaces. Asbestos may also be found in
floor tiles, sheet flooring, ceiling tiles and acoustical (stucco) finishes or as wall and
attic insulating materials. Exterior uses for asbestos may include shingles or siding
materials and asbestos cement pipes. Asbestos is a potential health hazard if damaged and
disturbed through renovation or demolition activities. Potential future liabilities for
both the property owner and the architect are also attached to the presence of asbestos.
can be found in interior and exterior paints or in plumbing as lead pipes or lead solder
on copper pipes. Lead Dust or Heavy Metal Dusts can be found on rafters, ceilings or
Structural Beams of many industrial and manufacturing facilities. The presence or absence
of lead in a building may have many implications. The value of a Building or property may
be greatly reduced due to the presence of lead. Dangers associated with lead dust from
renovation and demolition activities in older buildings and the high costs for lead
clean-up or removal by recognized trained professionals must be realized and passed on to
your clients. Lead is now being placed in the same group as asbestos and urea formaldehyde
with regards to reducing the value of a property. Lead, once identified, becomes a health
hazard to contractors and a potential future liability for property owners and the
architect and consulting engineer, responsible for the project.
are found in heat transfer oils in transformers and switches and in fluorescent light
fixtures as a component in ballast s. PCB containing ballast s are very common and are
found in fixtures produced prior to 1980. PCB s are well known in carcinogen and as such
must be treated with care. Such ballast s can not be simply thrown in the garbage but must
be handled and disposed of properly by qualified professional contractors. Larger pieces
of equipment containing PCB oils must also be identified and handled appropriately. Once
again, the presence of PCB s may have an effect on the value of a property due to costs
associated with removal, disposal and replacement of light fixtures, transformers and
other such equipment. Current regulations require strict handling and disposal practices.
This also becomes a potential liability for property owners and architects.
Fungus has been in the press consistently found in school portables, in ceilings,
walls, basements and cool damp areas. All building could potentially contain mould &
fungus. Where ever water damage may have occurred, around pipes and fittings, wet pipe
insulation, in crawl spaces and water closets. This is an issue where properly trained
personnel should only handle and remove mould and fungus.
Formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) was used in the early 1980 s in many
residential and commercial buildings as a subsequent or main insulating material in walls
and ceiling spaces. Liquid foam was sprayed into an area to be insulated where it expanded
to completely fill the space and hardened. Unfortunately it was found that this type of
foam insulation emitted toxic formaldehyde fumes causing serious respiratory health
effects. Subsequently many homes and commercial buildings had the foam removed by
structures still have the UFFI material in place. Presently there is a disclosure clause
in every real estate agreement concerning UFFI. In many instances, however, building
owners are unaware that their building contains UFFI passed on by former owners.
Identification of UFFI can avoid potential health & safety issues for the contractor
and liabilities for the owner and architect.
Storage Tanks Furnaces that are presently fuelled, or were fuelled in the past,
by oil require an oil storage tank. These tanks were generally located
above ground, in basement areas, or were buried outside near foundation walls.
If tanks are
present there is potential for leakage from the tanks themselves or from associated
piping. Buried tanks were used largely in industrial or commercial buildings. However,
many larger residential buildings also used underground storage tanks for oil storage. Any
buried fuel oil tanks not in use are required to be removed by law. These tanks may pose
potentially large and costly environmental problems and represent a large potential
liability for owners and architects.
Control in Health facilities briefly during construction by isolating the
construction work areas from the occupied areas in the Hospital. A very intricate plan to
build the necessary sealed containment structures, using approved caulking and sealants, a
step by step procedure of installation of upper seals, , using high volumes of HEPA
Negative Air Filtration Units, HEPA Vacuums and effectively isolating the construction
areas therefore preventing any contamination during construction or renovation.
Environmental Assessments In closing being pro-active when it comes to
recognizing Hazardous Materials are in buildings before 1985 and establishing a plan of
action. The by establishing a consistent protocol, of site and building assessment,
identification, following proper remedial action with a defined scope of work and hiring
the best qualified consultant and contractor, will protect you and your clients in the
Don Bremner is Vice President of Operations for
Restoration Environmental Contractors and Abcott Construction Ltd. Click here for contact information.