Public Justice Petitions EPA on Use of the Wet Method Asbestos Removal

Wet Method Asbestos Removal Tests Failed to Control Airborne Asbestos to NESHAP Requirements

June 8, 2010 - Under the Bush administration, the EPA experimented with the demolition of asbestos containing buildings using the Alternative Asbestos Control Method (AACM) or "wet method" as a less expensive alternative to the Clean Air Act's protocol. Despite test results that indicate significant asbestos release from use of the wet method, there is still discussion on Capital Hill about the use of AACM to replace the Clean Air Act's NESHAP demolition standard. Public Justice, representing the interests of consumers and the public as a whole, has petitioned the EPA to not endorse this method of asbestos removal due to the uncontrolled spread of asbestos fibers and the health threats posed by preventable asbestos exposure.

The Failure of the Wet Method of Asbestos Removal

Under the NESHAP guidelines, friable asbestos or asbestos containing materials that can be damaged during demolition must be removed from a building before demolition begins. With the proposed AACM, crews only need to wet down the building with a fire hose before starting the demolition of a structure. This method of asbestos removal has been tested by regional EPA offices in Ft. Worth, TX, St. Louis, MO and Ft. Chaffee, AR-all with similar failures in airborne asbestos fiber control.

When the EPA cleans up an existing asbestos contamination, the action level for settled dust in residential environments is set at 5,000 asbestos structures per cubic centimeter (s/cm2). For the AACM test sites, this limit was greatly exceeded:

  • At the Ft. Worth site, 16 of the 18 perimeter air monitors were positive for asbestos. On balconies adjacent to the test, dust monitors measured over 5,000 s/cm2, which exceeds the Libby action level. After demolition and "decontamination," the building slab contained 1,100,000 s/cm2.
  • At the Ft. Chaffee site, 70% of the settled dust samplers detected asbestos releases. A pavement sample measured 19,400 s/cm2-way beyond the 5,000s/cm2 limit set by the EPA for asbestos clean up. Water contained from building demolition was found to contain 130 billion asbestos structures per liter (s/L). While the EPA filtered the water before it was discharged into the public sewer system, no post filtration measurements were made to verify asbestos levels.

AACM Asbestos Removal Dangerous for Workers and Consumers

For both demolition workers and general consumers, this style of asbestos removal is a dangerous proposition. Demolition workers that are not properly prepared with respiratory gear and decontamination during and after the demolition will be needlessly exposed to asbestos, putting them at risk for future development of asbestos diseases. For members of the general public, the asbestos hazard stays long after the wrecking crew vacates. Wind blowing contaminated topsoil, future building projects or even children unknowingly playing in a contaminated area will subject people to asbestos-unfortunately putting them at greater risk for diseases likemesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer.

The Alternative Asbestos Control Method is not a safe method for asbestos removal and certainly a step backwards from the current removal standards set forth by the EPA. While Public Justice is fighting for the safety of the citizen at the EPA in Washington DC, concerned citizens are encouraged to contact their regional office and make their representative aware that public health comes first. A list of EPA regional offices and contacts can be found here.