As many of you are aware, Hazard Management Services, Inc. (HMS, Inc.) has often required vinyl floor tiles (VFTs) to be considered a hazardous waste when they are significantly broken when removed from their substrate. This view has also been adopted by many local Air Pollution Control Districts (APCDs) and Air Quality Management Districts (AQMDs), whose authority includes enforcement of the EPA’s NESHAPs regulation, when mechanical means (riding tractor, air chisels, etc.) are used to lift the tiles.

It has, also, long been understood that use of scrapers and grinders to remove the mastic associated with these VFTs from the concrete and wood substrates would render the mastic friable and thus a hazardous waste, while use of mastic removal fluid would not. With the issuance of the attached letter from the EPA Region IX, this assumption is no longer valid. Use of mastic removal fluid and a mechanical buffer, the standard operating procedure for this type of work, would now be considered to generate a friable hazardous waste.

The implications of this are that floor tile and mastic removal projects now require a ten working day notification to the local APCD/AQMD prior to the start of abatement (approved emergencies excluded) and a hazardous waste manifest must be used for their disposal. There are, also, fees attached to the notification, which means the price for this type of work will increase.

Projects that were to start between now and May 25, must have been notified ten working days previous to the start of abatement. This may be a problem for projects bid already but for which no notification was made. Projects that start on May 26 must be notified today, May 12. However, a project that does not even bid until May 30 would not be able to start until June 13.

It appears that if you want to avoid the notification and disposal as a hazardous waste requirements, you must require the VFTs and mastic to be removed by hand tool method only. Unfortunately, this will increase labor cost and the length of projects. It will also decrease the quality of the removal process for mastic, as it will be nearly impossible to get as much of the mastic up as you could with mastic removal fluid and buffers.

There is a water blasting removal method that has been developed by a southern California abatement firm. It is unclear at this time whether the EPA would consider that method of removal as generating a hazardous waste. HMS, Inc. has never explored this technique due to the potential for serious mold problems that could occur when large amounts of water are sprayed onto the surfaces of a building.

To sum it up, there will not be anymore last minute floor tile removal projects, unless we can convince the local APCD/AQMD that the project is an emergency. The cost of removing floor tiles and mastic will also go up slightly, as previously no fees were attached to this work by APCDs/AQMDs. Of course, some APCDs/AQMDs do not require a waiting period, or a fee, when the building owner is a School District.

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