Idaho (ID) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

Idaho defines asbestos as naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals mined for use in thermal insulation, with the properties of thermal and chemical stability, and high tensile strength. For many years, asbestos has been used both on its own, and as an additive to other products (to strengthen them, make them more fire resistant, and improve their heat insulating properties) (1). Asbestos fibers are classified as hazardous because these tiny fibers can lodge in the lung, causing permanent lung damage and serious diseases, including various forms of cancer.

If asbestos must be abated or removed, the state of Idaho requires that these actions be taken by a "competent person", defined by statute as an individual able to identify asbestos hazards and with the authority to take corrective eliminative measures. The competent person is charged with the duty of securing the building environment with a negative pressure enclosure, supervising employees during the removal or abatement, and ensuring that all employees are appropriately attired and are trained in the methods of exposure control. All persons claiming to be competent must complete the EPA’s approved training course for supervisors handling asbestos abatement (2).

Asbestos Inspections and Notification

In October 1999, as a result of "limitations of Idaho's personnel policies and the resultant effect on program staff," the Idaho Division of Environmental Quality informed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it would no longer operate an asbestos inspection program. It requested that the EPA take over all inspections related to asbestos removal and abatement in Idaho.

In order to protect residents from inhaling asbestos fibers released at contaminated sites, all persons in Idaho who wish to perform renovation or demolition of building sites that may contain asbestos must first notify the EPA formally before beginning the project. The definition of materials which may contain asbestos is available in the federal Clean Air Act rules for hazardous air pollutants (3).

Notification in advance to the EPA allows the organization to ensure that trained and certified workers will perform the removal and containment. In asbestos removal, it is critical to keep friable fibers out of the environment where they can be absorbed by the body, and trained removal experts are better at doing this than unskilled workers. To ensure quality, the EPA conducts unannounced inspections on a random basis to make sure that all required and necessary precautions are being taken (4).

Improper handling of asbestos can release fibers into the air, where they remain suspended or are scattered by wind, and can be subsequently breathed in by anyone who comes into contact with them. Human exposure to asbestos fibers has been known to result in a multitude of lung-related cancers and ailments, most of which are untreatable and deadly. The incubation period of these diseases is extremely long, making it difficult to determine where individuals were originally exposed (3). For these reasons, it is critical that asbestos materials be handled with care by knowledgeable professionals.

The EPA has committed itself to protecting the interests of the people of Idaho, despite the state’s inability to provide funds and personnel to the effort. Lynn McKee, Director of EPA’s Idaho Operations Office in Boise, said: "We’ve picked up the program where the state left off, and contractors and asbestos abatement firms should expect the same level of oversight as before. And, while we’re here to provide advice and help firms comply with the regulations, we will not be reluctant to take enforcement action where the health of Idaho citizens has potentially been put at risk." (3)

With the EPA in control, Idaho building owners and operators are subject to the federal schedule of fees and tariffs concerning asbestos violations. According to the federal Clean Air Act, violations relating to demolition and renovation projects are punishable with fines of up to $25,000 per day, per violation (3). Simple economics make it imperative to properly handle asbestos cleanup and removal projects.

Abatement and Disposal

The EPA has created a set of regulations called the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). These regulations are in effect to protect the public from asbestos fibers being released into the environment. Friable asbestos is extremely fragile and can release fibers through handling, processing, and disposal of the material. The regulations and work practices mandated by the NESHAP provide guidelines on how to minimize the risks through proper handling during all demolition and renovation projects. The regulations also require that anyone about to undergo an asbestos-related project must first notify all state and local agencies in additional to the regional office of the EPA before beginning their project (4).

The EPA is the ultimate authority in the control of asbestos related regulations. They are responsible for certification and licensing programs for asbestos-removal contractors. The EPA also provides inspections of asbestos abatement projects and enforces laws regarding proper handling and disposal of the substance (1).

Currently, EPA and Idaho DEQ contract with Industrial Hygiene Resources in Garden City, Idaho, to regulate asbestos removal and disposal projects in Idaho (1).

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