How do I get rid of asbestos?

Property Clinic: There’s asbestos in my house. Can I dig a trench and bury it?

Asbestos-containing materials  should be safely removed by an asbestos-removal contractor and disposed of as asbestos waste.

Asbestos-containing materials should be safely removed by an asbestos-removal contractor and disposed of as asbestos waste.

 

I have plans to renovate my old central heating system but I have found there are big central heating pipes covered in asbestos in the kitchen. Also, the central heating shed measuring about 12ft x 4ft has an asbestos sheeting roof and 5 inch chimney pipe. Could you tell me please how I could dispose of this stuff? I don’t think the landfill site near me will dispose of this for me. Could I dig a trench and bury it?

Prior to completing any refurbishment/replacement work in your home, I would strongly advise that the area/ building is checked by a professional for the presence of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

ACMs in good condition should not be disturbed. However, if removal is required then the ACMs should be safely removed by an asbestos-removal contractor and disposed of as asbestos waste. Exposure to airborne asbestos fibres can be very dangerous if they are inhaled as dust. They contribute to an increased risk of developing asbestos-related disease such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestos.

ACMs were widely used in the Irish construction industry up until 1999. The majority of residential buildings built between 1945 and 1990, during which time asbestos production peaked, contain asbestos in some form. People who live in older homes, as well as those who work on refurbishment, repair and demolition projects, may be exposed to the dangerous fibres when ACMs are disturbed or removed.

Some of the common ACMs found in the home include roof slates and rainwater goods, roof felts, soffit boards, window panels, window boards, ceiling and wall panels, stippled ceiling finish (Artex), toilet cisterns, bath panels, vinyl floor tiles and black adhesive, asbestos-backed lino, old electrical equipment, and heating systems (boiler and pipe insulation, flue pipes and insulation boards). External ACMs include corrugated cement roofs and garage ceilings. For every ACM, there is an exact lookalike which does not contain asbestos.

Asbestos survey

Prior to carrying out any refurbishment or demolition works in a property, it is a requirement to carry out an asbestos survey. The purpose of the survey is to identify and quantify ACMs in the property. Once identified, the ACMs may be safely removed or left in situ and managed in place.

Removal of ACMs may be a potentially dangerous procedure and should be undertaken only by a contractor with the necessary training and experience. Improper removal increases the risk of fibre exposure and potential cross contamination of a property. Removal of high-risk ACMs or ACMs in a degraded condition must be notified to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

Burial of asbestos waste is strictly prohibited in Ireland and can potentially lead to major fines and/or prosecution from the HSA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under current legislation/regulations.

Once ACMs have been removed, the waste is classified as a hazardous waste product under European waste legislation and therefore must be disposed of in the correct manner. As a hazardous waste product, the collection, transport and disposal of ACMs is covered by the provisions of the Waste Management Act 1996. Consideration should also be given to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013 under which there are responsibilities for homeowners.

Andrew Ramsey is a Chartered Building Surveyor and Chartered Project Management Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI).

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