The CSRD has new procedures for dealing with materials containing asbestos, including drywall manufactured prior to 1990. (File photo)

Shuswap homes built before 1990 may contain asbestos in drywall

Regional district institutes procedures for accepting drywall containing asbestos

There is a danger lurking in many homes that residents may not know about.

Any building constructed before the 1990s is likely to have asbestos in the drywall, advised Ben Van Nostrand, environmental health team leader, to directors at the Sept. 20 Columbia Shuswap Regional District board meeting.

“Demolition and renovation materials, including ceiling and other textured drywall, drywall mud and tape, floor tile and attic insulation manufactured through to the late 1980s, has been determined to likely contain asbestos,” wrote Van Nostrand in his report to the board. “Asbestos was added to these materials to make it more noise absorbent, to improve fire resistant capabilities and to make it stronger.”

The regional district began recycling drywall in 2010 and, in 2013, partnered with the North Okanagan and Okanagan-Similkameen regional districts to send drywall to a composting facility in Alberta.

But in October 2017, the CSRD was informed that, due to uncertainties related to the potential for the drywall to contain asbestos, they would no longer be able to accept it at their facility.

Related: Asbestos concerns stop recycling of drywall

As a result, landfills in the Southern Interior, including CSRD facilities, ended up with large stockpiles of drywall, some of which likely contained asbestos.

CSRD staff worked with neighbouring regional districts, consultants and Work Safe BC to develop guidelines to ensure the general public, CSRD contractors and staff are protected when disposing of the stockpiles.

“At the time of writing this report, all CSRD stockpiles of drywall have either been appropriately landfilled or are in the final process of being removed,” wrote Van Nostrand.

Directors expressed the concern that many residents may not be aware of the danger of asbestos, or that they might have it in their homes.

Related: Asbestos discovered at Salmon Arm’s indoor arena

Van Nostrand pointed out that CSRD staff will continue to explore recycling options for new construction drywall, as landfilling drywall has negative environmental impacts such as the production of hydrogen sulphide gas, which is toxic to humans and can be lethal at higher concentrations.

At this point, operations manager Darcy Mooney advised directors that the gas caused a fatality at the landfill a number of years ago.

Van Nostrand then noted staff will begin reviewing drywall recycling options, in conjunction with the bylaw and tipping fee, and will potentially advance amendments in 2019 to reflect program changes.

“In the meantime, staff will ensure that CSRD workers, contractors and customers of CSRD refuse disposal facilities are educated on the changes in the way in which these demolition and renovation materials are managed and accepted at CSRD facilities,” he noted.

Related: WorkSafeBC calls on construction industry to protect its workers

Individuals wishing to dispose of drywall and associated materials that were manufactured prior to 1990 must ensure they are double-bagged and sealed in plastic bags that are at least 6 mm thick – before they are taken to the landfills or transfer stations.

“The issue is really renovation and demolition stuff and the key point there is 1990, so pre-1990 that you know may contain asbestos, if you want to bring it to the site without some proof that it doesn’t contain asbestos, you can double bag it,” says Van Nostrand, noting that the material will be accepted without being bagged if a professional has done a risk assessment and signed off that it doesn’t contain asbestos. Or, individuals can sign a waiver declaring the material to be post 1990.

Van Nostrand said he wanted to create a number of avenues for the public and hopes to come up with another drywall recycling program in the future.

“The problem there is they need to sign off to say it’s asbestos free; if it shows up at the Richmond facility, we risk being fined, so the new program will be restricted to construction and brand-new drywall, companies that have signed off that they’re bringing clean drywall only.”

Van Nostrand says the regional district will be providing instructions on demolition, how people can become aware of the risks of asbestos, how to take precautions, or where to find somebody to do a risk assessment.

Information will be available on the regional district’s website at www.csrd.bc.ca by the end of this week.


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

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