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Commonly asked asbestos questions and answers

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A few months ago, we asked our Asbestos Updates email subscribers for questions they have about our asbestos regulatory program.

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers: 

How does Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency’s (SRCAA’s) asbestos program work?

Our asbestos program is essentially a set of regulatory requirements put into place to protect public health from asbestos exposure when a building or home is renovated or demolished. Contractors, businesses and homeowners are usually required to notify SRCAA when an asbestos project or demolition is taking place. This is called a Notice of Intent or NOI.

The NOIs are processed and then inspections take place at random project sites. This ensures that the work is being conducted according to regulations. SRCAA inspectors also stop at project sites to follow up on complaints filed with the agency.

How does regulating asbestos benefit/affect me as a homeowner or as a tenant?

The purpose of the regulation is to prevent the release of harmful asbestos fibers disturbed during renovation or demolition.

SRCAA has a wide variety of educational materials for homeowners who may be considering a home improvement project – either for doing the work themselves or if they plan to hire a contractor.  There are “how-to” manuals, an asbestos service providers list, and other Resources.

Homeowners can also call on our knowledgeable inspectors, who are trained as AHERA building inspectors and most also as abatement supervisors. Homeowners may also contact SRCAA and have an agency inspector investigate concerns about the work practices of a hired abatement company.

For tenants, any work performed at their location (home or building) must be performed by a certified abatement contractor and an asbestos survey must be at the work site for review. Tenants may also connect directly with SRCAA inspectors. They can (and should) report renovations without an asbestos survey posted on-site, not performed by a licensed abatement contractor or who may have unknowingly exposed tenants by not following the asbestos program requirements.  

How do I know that contractors are following asbestos regulations?

As a homeowner, if you hire a contractor you need to ensure that they have an AHERA survey performed. A rule of thumb: if the work contains anything other than bare wood, metal or glass, then an AHERA asbestos survey must be performed, and posted on the job site. If no survey has been performed, it is likely that asbestos requirements are not being met. 

Can a tenant file a complaint if a landlord is not following procedures?

Anyone may file complaints with the agency regarding possible asbestos violations. If you prefer, you may file your complaint anonymously at SpokaneCleanAir.org or by calling 509-477-4727.

How much is the average cost for a homeowner?

The agency does not charge a fee for work in single family homes that qualify as Owner-Occupied-Single-Family-Residences (OOSFR- SRCAA Regulation I, Article IX Section 9.02 T.)

Abatement contractors must still submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) for removal done on these projects and there is not a fee for this. There is, however, a demolition fee of $30.00 is charged by the SRCAA for OOSFR demolition.

The Agency cannot speak to removal costs or what a typical abatement cost may be for a homeowner. You can find the NOI fees required by the Agency to perform abatement/demolition work under Section 10.09.

 Can a landlord charge me for testing?

Spokane Clean Air is not involved in financial transactions between tenants and landlords. The purpose of the regulation is to prevent the release of harmful asbestos fibers disturbed during renovation or demolition.

How long has this program been around?

In 1991, the Agency (then called the Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority) began regulating asbestos removal and demolition projects in order to protect public health and the environment. In 1998, the asbestos regulations were amended and a full-time inspector was hired to provide asbestos education and enforcement of the asbestos regulations.  Currently, all six of the SRCAA’s inspectors spend a portion of their time working in the asbestos program.

Has the program worked the way that it was intended?

Our Board of Directors adopted the Asbestos Control Standards found in SRCAA Regulation I, Article IX to control emissions primarily resulting from renovation projects and demolition projects in order to protect public health.  Through complaint response, public outreach and enforcement activities, the Agency continues working to reduce exposures to asbestos.

The Agency’s work has provided important opportunities to communicate the requirements and the importance of controlling asbestos emissions. SRCAA staff also report a summary of asbestos-related activities to the Board of Directors to demonstrate the scope of the program.

Are there restrictions for construction or removal of asbestos when we have poor air quality caused by seasonal wildfires or other factors?

The requirements are the same regardless of current air quality conditions.  Uncontained asbestos disturbances are always prohibited. Asbestos projects are to be conducted within containments by properly trained workers, using standard methods to prevent the release of asbestos.

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