Ohio EPA has finalized changes to its asbestos regulations which govern notification and work practices for asbestos abatement.  Ohio EPA described the changes as minor.  However, one change in particular could impact asbestos abatement contractors. 

Ohio EPA modified the definition of "friable asbestos material" appearing in Ohio Administrative Code Section 3745-20-01.  The only change was to add the following underlined language to the definition:

"Friable asbestos material" means any material containing more than one per cent asbestos by area, as determined using the method specified in 40 CFR Part 763, Subpart E, Appendix E, Section 1 Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM), that, when dry can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure.  If the asbestos content is less than ten percent as determined by a method other than point counting by Polarized Light Microscopy, verify the asbestos content by point counting using Polarized Light Microscopy.  Any category I or category II asbestos containing material that becomes damaged from either deterioration or attempts at removal or abatement resulting in small fragments the size of four square inches or less shall also be considered friable or RACM.

According to papers Ohio EPA filed as part of the rulemaking process, this rule change is a simple clarification of the definition of RACM and friable Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM).  Ohio EPA also asserts U.S. EPA has a similar interpretation.

However, this sentence does not appear in the federal rules found in 40 CFR 61.141.  Therefore, it is easy to read this as an expansion of what constitutes "friable asbestos material."  In addition, Ohio EPA statement doesn’t exactly appear consistent with guidance provided by U.S. EPA on the subject:

Category I non-friable ACM must be inspected and tested for friability if it is in poor condition before demolition to determine whether or not it is subject to the Asbestos NESHAP. If the ACM is friable, it must be handled in accordance with the NESHAP. Asbestos-containing packings, gaskets, resilient floor coverings and asphalt roofing materials must be removed before demolition only if they are in poor condition and are friable.

Ohio EPA may say the four square inches referenced in the rule is an indication the material is in poor condition.  The rule does not say where the line is drawn.  What if only one piece is damaged with pieces less than four square inches?  Does that mean ALL the floor tile must be remove prior to demolition?

In talking with asbestos abatement contractors, this rule change has the potential to significantly impact demolition and renovation projects.  Under the new definition, ACM flooring tile and other projects may need to be removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor prior to demolition.  Also, roofing project that involve ACM roofing materials may also have to be performed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. 

If either ACM floor tile, roofing material or other materials are damaged during the removal process or demolition, the contractor and the owner of the building risk a possible citation for failing to remove friable asbestos material prior to demolition.  OAC 3745-21-04(A)(1)(a)

It is also interesting to note that Ohio EPA indicated in the rule filing there will be no impact on revenues or expenditures due to increased compliance costs.

It is my understanding that Ohio EPA will be performing in-house training of its inspectors to ensure consistency in applying the rule change. However, it may have been more prudent to provide greater clarity in the rule itself.