Recommendations Regarding Proposed Changes to ACJC Management Practices and Next Steps for DEP

  1. Introduction

    DEP's Workgroup on Asbestos-Containing Joint Compound was tasked with preparing a Discussion Document and coordinating Department input to develop policy recommendations for management of ACJC. A Responsibility Chart for this process was agreed on during the May 2001 DD/DRD meeting. The first step in the process was to develop a Draft Discussion Document which was prepared and distributed for comment on June 29. Staff were also invited to participate in policy discussions at a meeting on July 25. This Final Draft Decision Document is the result of the process to date (integrating comments on discussion paper, and input from July 25 and other workgroup meetings). Comments on this Final Draft Decision Document are being requested by August 24th with a view to a policy decision by the end of August or early September. In the interim, this document will also be discussed during the BWP DD/DRD meeting on August 16.

    In summary, recommendations regarding changes to ACJC management practices are:
    1. DEP should not adopt EPA's composite sampling policy at this time.
    2. DEP should not propose any changes in ACJC management practices at this time.
    3. DEP should support pilot studies to gather data needed for ACJC management decisions.

    Section II below provides a summary of discussions and comments received in support of the above recommendations. Ideas for pilot studies and data gathering are presented in section III.
  2. Recommendations and summary of related comments and discussions regarding proposed changes to ACJC/Wallboard management practices
    1. DEP should not adopt EPA's composite sampling policy at this time.
      This recommendation is being made because of insufficient health-based data to support the composite sampling approach. Some of the key issues raised in discussions and comments received were:
      1. EPA did not generate exposure models or conduct risk assessment to support their NESHAPS clarification that allows composite sampling (nor did other states contacted that had adopted policy). The EPA decision was based on enforcement practicalities. [NESHAPS-National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants].
      2. The 1% threshold in NESHAPS is not a risk-based threshold. This threshold was based on the detection limits of sampling technology (in the '80's) rather than risk assessment. Current technologies can detect asbestos at lower concentrations, and there are still health impacts at levels below 1%.
      3. DEP staff involved in discussions/comments were also concerned that allowing composite sampling for ACJC/wallboard would set precedent for "averaging or diluting" in other situations.
      4. Composite sampling would virtually deregulate ACJC/wallboard and make it easier for more asbestos contaminated debris to end up in municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills, construction and demolition (C&D) landfills, or in the C&D recycling process
    2. DEP should not propose any changes in ACJC management practices at this time.
      During the July 25 ACJC meeting, discussions focused on development of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to manage risks associated with ACJC/wallboard. This was considered as a middle ground (between the extremes of current regulations and composite sampling) and an approach that provided some potential for design of a more cost-effective approach to adequately manage ACJC/wallboard. However, based on discussions and comments received, it is not possible to develop alternative BMPs at this point due to lack of data on potential asbestos releases under different management scenarios. The following key issues influenced the above recommendation not to propose any changes in ACJC management practice at this time.
      1. The "full demolition" approach (leaving ACJC/wallboard in place) was considered as an alternative to prior removal under full containment. Current DEP regulations require removal of ACJC prior to demolition (except in emergency situations). The general consensus was that any change in this practice would be in conflict with DEP goals to divert C&D debris from landfills, and to keep asbestos out of the C&D recycling process. Therefore the "full demolition" approach was no longer considered an option. Segregating wallboard/ACJC prior to demolition is still the preferred approach.
      2. Risk management practices (current and alternatives) during wallboard removal and disposal were discussed and there were many unanswered questions regarding exposure to asbestos from joint compound/wallboard. Questions raised include "what is the health risk posed if ACJC/ wallboard is removed without full containment, disposed of at a C&D landfill, or processed at a C&D grinding facility?" Exposures to workers and the general public were considered. The general consensus was that there is not enough data available at present to assess the health risks associated with alternative management practices for ACJC/wallboard removal or disposal (see 2c below).
      3. Asbestos toxicity and risk assessment issues were discussed and it became clear that although toxicity data for various types of asbestos is available, data on exposure in different situations is limited. Crysotile (the main type of asbestos in joint compound) is carcinogenic, as are all types of asbestos and low levels of asbestos exposure can be a health risk in that a one-time inhalation can cause a lifetime exposure (because one fiber can remain in the lungs for life and cause problems). The degree to which asbestos remains bound in the joint compound material is unclear. In order to make a health-based decision regarding changes to current ACJC/wallboard management, DEP needs more information on how much asbestos actually gets released to the air under different conditions (e.g. wallboard removal or grinding operations).
      4. Discussions about C&D landfills as alternatives to Asbestos landfills for ACJC/wallboard highlighted potential conflicts with the Solid Waste Master Plan (SWMP) and other issues related to landfill capacity and disposal of asbestos-containing material (ACM).

        The SWMP aims to increase recycling of C&D debris by banning disposal of unprocessed C&D in 2003. Concerns were raised about ACJC/wallboard entering processing operations (if it were allowed to be disposed of as C&D) and about current and future levels of asbestos in C&D fines. The BWP/Solid Waste program does not intend for any materials containing asbestos be processed/recycled, used as daily cover (C&D fines) nor for shaping and grading material in unlined landfills. Processing facilities are supposed to make every effort to ensure that material containing asbestos is not accepted for processing. However, It is likely that ACJC/wallboard is already entering the municipal and C&D waste stream (e.g. from residential sources where it's not handled as ACM) but it is unclear how much material is being processed or how much asbestos gets released during processing. In addition, gypsum wallboard is one of six priority materials being targeted by the C&D subcommittee for reuse/recycling. ACJC needs to be considered in subcommittee decisions. Likewise, any decision on changes to ACJC/wallboard management practices should consider C&D subcommittee work and Solid Waste Master Plan goals.

        In addition to risk evaluations, the Department should also consider the implications of a policy that bans any amount of asbestos in C&D processing operations or other recycling/reuse activities. Further discussion is needed on testing and other requirements to meet this standard and what this really means in terms of the viability of a C&D recycling/processing infrastructure. Concerns were raised over the need to balance risk with the practicalities of building deconstruction, C&D recycling and other potential material reuse efforts.

        New asbestos survey requirements (contained in asbestos regulation revisions) should result in increased ACJC/wallboard notifications and demand for ACM landfill space, and reduce the amount of ACJC/wallboard ending up in MSW or C&D landfills, or C&D processing operations in MA. The difference in ACM vs C&D disposal costs in Massachusetts is not as high as previously thought ($100-150/ton and expected to rise) however, landfill capacity is limited and more waste is expected to go out of state (where cost is often lower and controls for ACJC may be less stringent).
    3. DEP should support pilot studies to gather data needed for ACJC management decisions.
      Several ideas for pilot/data gathering studies were put forward to help fill the data gaps identified above (2b-d). Suggestions and comments are summarized below and outlines for pilot studies are presented in section III.
      1. Additional data would be useful to determine how much asbestos is released from ACJC during various types of activities (e.g. wallboard removal, grinding), how much is currently present in C&D fines, and to explore the feasibility of developing alternative Best Management Practices (BMPs) for ACJC that may be sufficiently protective but less costly than current regulatory requirements.
      2. Pilot studies for ACJC/wallboard should be integrated with other DEP C&D source separation efforts (e.g. as part of a broader C&D recycling project).
      3. Results of study could help inform discussions/decisions on management practices and standards for asbestos in C&D processing/recycling operations.
      4. DEP should seek partners to help fund such projects and also consider the Clean Environment Fund (CEF) as a possible source of funding to support data gathering (see proposed studies outlined in Section III. 1-5).
      5. DEP should coordinate with other agencies (e.g. OSHA or DOT) regarding any pilot studies or proposed changes in policy/management practices that might conflict with their requirements. Long-term health system costs should also be assessed if changes are being considered that might result in increased public exposure to asbestos.
  3. Ideas for Pilot Studies and Data Gathering to Evaluate Asbestos Release from ACJC/Wallboard
    Preliminary outlines for five pilot studies/data gathering projects were developed as a follow up to the July 25 ACJC meeting. If a decision is made to proceed with studies, more input will be requested across the Department to further develop these project outlines.
    1. Demolition/Renovation Pilot Study
    2. C&D Grinding Operations - Pilot Study
    3. C&D Grinding Operations - Gather data from existing operations
    4. Compliance Assessment and Data Generation at C&D Grinding Operations
    5. Vitrification - exploring potential of technology for reuse of ACJC
  4. Demolition/Renovation Pilot Study
    The purpose of this study is to answer the following questions:
    1. How much asbestos is actually released from joint compound when wallboard is removed under varying conditions?
    2. What management practices are appropriate to ensure wallboard removal activities are undertaken in a manner that poses no significant risk?
    3. What are the costs associated with various management practices?
      Study outline
      • Set up operations with protective measures as currently required, and monitor emissions (personnel, ambient air, dust on poly/other materials etc.)
      • Modify variables (e.g. by removing a protective measure) and monitor to evaluate changes in asbestos release and exposure.
      • Based on data obtained, determine if all currently required controls are necessary to ensure condition of no significant risk.
      • Assess costs of different management practices
    4. Note:  This study should be conducted in conjunction with the grinding pilot outlined below. There is little benefit in obtaining data on the wallboard removal phase unless data is available to assess disposal options also. Possible sites for a pilot include Devens and Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR).
  5. C&D Grinding Operations - Pilot Study
    In considering all stages in the pathway from wallboard removal through disposal or recycling, grinding of wallboard is probably the worst case scenario in terms of potential asbestos fiber release from ACJC. A study on actual asbestos release/exposure during grinding would enable DEP to determine whether ACJC/wallboard really needs to be segregated from other C&D material.

    The purpose of this study is to answer the following questions:
    1. How much asbestos is released during grinding of ACJC/wallboard and what risk does this pose?
    2. Based on release/exposure results, should ACJC/wallboard continue to go to Special Waste/asbestos NESHAPS landfills or is it appropriate to allow this material to go to solid waste landfills (e.g. as C&D or MSW)?
    3. If appropriate for solid waste landfills, should ACJC/wallboard be allowed for use as landfill cover or subgrade material?
    4. Are there certain levels of asbestos that may be acceptable in C&D processing operations?
  6. Study Outline
    • Set up pilot operation (e.g. at Devens) that would mimic situation at a C&D grinding facility.
    • Monitor emissions (including dust on equipment) to evaluate asbestos fiber release and potential exposure from ACJC/wallboard grinding.
  7. C&D Grinding Operations - Gather data from existing operations
    Gathering data from existing facilities could provide useful data on current levels of asbestos in C&D fines and releases to air, and the reliability of current data being reported. This study could help inform future discussions and decisions regarding standards/management practices for C&D processing operations and answer the following questions:
    1. How many/what % of facilities routinely sample for asbestos?
    2. How much asbestos is present in fines and released to air from C&D grinding process?
    3. What sampling protocols are in use and how representative are the sampling results?
  8. Compliance Assessment/Data Generation at C&D Grinding Operations
    1. Organize study as a research project through a university such that DEP could obtain data needed but grinding facilities could remain anonymous.
    2. Conduct joint asbestos/solid waste program inspections at regional grinding facilities. Use Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) as part of enforcement if asbestos violations exist (SEPs can be used to generate additional useful data).
  9. Vitrification - exploring potential of technology for reuse of ACJC
    This technology should be explored further possibly as a joint effort between BWP, STEP and Innovative Technology group. Vitrification is a high temperature process that can convert asbestos or other contaminated materials to an inert glass-type substance. It has been several years since this technology was considered in MA and it would be useful to find out if it has been developed yet as a full-scale operation either in US or internationally. If there is potential for ACJC reuse (or other ACM reuse) using this technology, DEP could consider supporting a pilot study at an existing asbestos landfill or transfer station, or including study as part of another pilot (e.g. Devens ACJC pilot if this were to proceed). The questions to be answered initially are:
    1. Is there any vitrification facility in operation, and if so, what data is available on the process, emissions, cost/benefit etc?
    2. How could vitrification help meet MA Solid Waste Master Plan goals?
    3. What are the costs/benefits and feasibility of vitrification in MA?
    4. What are the requirements of the NESHAPS vitrification regulations, and how do these impact a possible pilot study in MA?
    5. Should DEP support a pilot study for vitrification and how should this be financed and managed?