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General Regulations for Construction Waste

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published rules and guidelines relating to material waste disposal practices for businesses involved in construction and demolition. These federal regulations and best-practices apply to businesses both large and national as well as small and local that are engaged in residential, commercial, or industrial construction, demolition/deconstruction, or rehabilitation of buildings as well as construction or repair projects for municipal governments such as schools, roads, and utility services.

While the EPA is responsible for providing federal regulations and policies, business owners must also follow the environmental regulations of the state’s they are certified to do business in. In some instances, a state will have identical policies to those of the federal government’s but in other locations the rule may be more restrictive. To avoid risk and possible penalties, a business must adhere to the most stringent rule that pertains to their area of business.

Two areas of particular concern for construction and demolition businesses are the management and proper disposal of underground storage tanks and lead-paint abatement.

Knowing your state’s regulations for properly maintaining and, when necessary, disposing of underground heating and storage tanks is essential for avoiding fines and legal action. Tanks with leaks can endanger human and environmental health as heating oil or other hazardous chemicals are leached into the ground and public water supplies. Fumes from faulty tanks can infect the surrounding areas with toxic gasses that can contribute to an explosion, fire, and breathing difficulties to all who come in contact.

Fixing a leaky tank and the damage done to the surrounding area is an expensive and time-consuming job, so it’s best to know the history and condition of the tanks before construction or demolition work begins in the area. If your work contributes to a leak, you must report the incident to the state’s regulatory department before starting the process of removing the tank, hazardous materials, and remediation the damage.

Being knowledgeable of Lead Safe certifications is also important for those businesses working on renovation or demolition projects in older residential homes or office buildings as lead paint is a hazardous material that must be removed and disposed of following stringent guidelines. Even simple renovation tasks such as sanding and cutting can result in lead paint chips and dust that can be harmful to children, animals, and adults.

The EPA requires all businesses to follow the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. This federal law states that all businesses performing painting, renovation, or repair projects in pre-1978 residential and commercial building be certified to conduct the work and that certified renovators be contracted to do the work. Failure to comply with this rule can result in legal action, monetary fines, and possibly jail time.

Regardless of the project your business is undertaking, following the EPA’s suggestions and regulations for reducing and recycling material waste from construction work is a smart decision. Taking full advantage of recycling and reuse opportunities will help in reducing the amount of landfill space communities need, decreases the negative environmental effects for all community residents, increase “green” job opportunities, and can significantly impact a construction or demolition project costs by reducing or avoiding waste disposal fees


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