Buildings must be fully assessed before demolition can begin. Older buildings often contain lead paint and pipes, asbestos insulation, and mercury-containing fluorescent lights. Each type of waste must be designated and handled differently.
What do I need to do before demolition?
- Gather knowledge about the site including its age and previous uses.
- Assess the building for dangerous wastes by designating your waste types.
- Remove dangerous materials.
Tearing buildings down
When buildings are torn down, workers, neighbors, and the environment can be exposed to toxic chemicals. We strongly urge designating the building as a whole, including building components, before demolition. It is much easier to sample a standing structure than a large pile of debris. Also, sampling prior to demolition allows identification and removal of specific components (such as siding with lead paint) that designate as dangerous waste.
Construction waste is usually left over from construction work sites. New construction creates dangerous waste from treated wood, paint, solvents, glue, roofing tars, and other materials. These must be designated and disposed of properly under the Dangerous Waste Regulations. Choose less hazardous materials and find safer alternatives, when possible.
Recycling or reusing dangerous materials
If dangerous materials are to be thrown out, then you are required to designate and handle them according to the laws for that type of waste. However, recycled or reused dangerous materials are not regulated the same way. For example, a door painted with lead-based paint can be reused as it is without designation. If that door is to be discarded, then it must be designated and handled as dangerous waste.
Who is responsible for the waste?
The waste generator is responsible for waste designation. The waste generator is the person who owns the site. Even if you hire a contractor to conduct the demolition or a waste service provider to designate your waste, the site owner is ultimately liable. This is why it is important to research reputable and reliable contractors.
Contractors are liable for wastes originating on their own property and waste they generate from construction sites.
Common types of dangerous waste in construction and demolition
*If you are demolishing, remodeling, or burning a building for fire training, you must send an Asbestos Demolition/Renovation Notification Form to your clean air agency. If you are doing work in Adams, Asotin, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, or Whitman county, send the form to your county planning agency. Send forms at least 10 days before you start the activity.
- Aerosol cans
- Fluorescent bulbs, PCB-Containing Light Ballasts
- Lead-containing materials (such as siding, drywall, paint, pipes)
- Mercury-containing light bulbs and lamps
- Paint (waste or expired, oil- or lead- or solvent-based, and paint booth filters)
- Solvents (waste methylene chloride, toluene or MEK, sludge or “bottoms” from solvent stills that recycle gun cleaner or thinner)
- Used shop towels and other absorbent materials (kitty litter for oil, for example)
- Used oil (metal working oils, coolants, and debris)
Sample and test your demolition debris.
Dangerous Waste testing regulations do not regulate how many waste samples to take or where to take them as long as one representative sample is done of each waste to be tested. A representative sample is defined in the Dangerous Waste Regulations as "a sample which can be expected to exhibit the average properties of the sample source."
Sample older buildings for lead. If the building is painted with lead-based paint, you have two options:
- Screen and separate building components that designate as dangerous waste for dangerous waste disposal.
- View the entire building or demolition debris pile as one waste stream. Depending on test results, the debris pile is managed either entirely as solid waste or as dangerous waste.