Even if you were told your co-op or condo does not contain asbestos, New York City Local Law 76/85 mandates a survey to verify that no asbestos is present in the materials that will be demolished before the construction work can begin.
Asbestos-containing material (ACM), defined as any material with more than one percent asbestos, comes in two forms: friable and non-friable. Friable ACM is brittle and easy to crumble (such as insulation) and readily becomes airborne when crushed. Non-friable ACM (for example, floor tile and most roofing materials) is thicker and tougher and therefore not as easily released into the air as friable ACM.
Because friable ACM is easily broken apart or torn, it is potentially dangerous when disturbed, whereas the sturdier non-friable ACM poses less of a risk. In either case, cutting, drilling, pulling up roofing membranes, removing floors, walls, or ceilings, and other types of demolition usually generate a lot of dust, creating a potential hazard of asbestos inhalation.
Local Law 76/85 was enacted as a precautionary measure to ensure that any project involving such demolition minimizes the risk of airborne asbestos.
For buildings in New York City, an asbestos investigator certified by both the city and the state must conduct the asbestos survey. Working from demolition plans provided by the project's designer or architect, the investigator takes samples of each type of material from the areas that will be disturbed or demolished during the project.
The number of samples taken varies depending on the type of material and the amount of surface area being demolished. According to guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, at least one sample should be taken for each type of miscellaneous material (such as flooring and roofing) and at least three or more for other types of materials, such as spray-on fireproofing.
The samples are then sent to a certified laboratory for analysis. The lab determines the amount of both types of asbestos in the materials and sends the results to the investigator. If no friable asbestos-containing materials are present, the investigator completes an ACP-5 (Asbestos Control Program) form. The ACP-5 states that there is no friable asbestos-containing material or that the friable ACM area is less than 10 square feet or less than 25 linear feet. The form also notes if there is non-friable ACM present.
The ACP-5 is then filed with the DOB and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) verifying that the work is a not a friable asbestos project. It still, however, may be a "non-friable asbestos project," meaning that, although no friable ACM was found, there is non-friable ACM that will be disturbed in the course of demolition.
If asbestos-containing material of either type is found in the samples, then an asbestos abatement project must be conducted before any construction or renovation work can begin. Only a contractor licensed to remove asbestos can perform the work, not the investigator, engineer, architect, or the contractor hired for the repair project.
As part of the abatement project, an independent asbestos air monitor must be present to ensure that airborne asbestos is kept below the allowable limit. If the asbestos-containing material found in the samples is friable, then an ACP-7 form must be filed with the NYC DEP declaring that it is a friable asbestos project. Unlike the ACP-5, the ACP-7 is filed only with the DEP, not with the DOB, and anyone can file it, not just the inspector. (Typically, it's the asbestos abatement contractor.)
After the asbestos containing material is removed, the investigator returns to the site to verify that the ACM has been removed, and then files the ACP-5.
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