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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
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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