Maine (ME) Asbestos Removal & Abatement Resources:

The State of Maine defines asbestos as a general term for a variety of natural mineral fibers. Asbestos has been used for nearly 4,000 years to strengthen and fireproof materials. Asbestos ore is mined primarily in Canada, Russia, and South Africa and serves and an excellent insulator while being strong, flexible, fireproof and chemically resistant. It is no wonder that humankind utilized asbestos in such a widespread manner before becoming aware of the health hazard it posed.

Asbestos is found in a wide range of products. Buildings constructed before 1980 are very likely to contain asbestos in multiple forms. Asbestos has been used in pipe insulation, boiler coverings, plaster, vinyl floors, siding, gaskets, paints, paper, and thousands of other materials. Asbestos was heavily used in construction and shipbuilding for many years until the health concerns were realized and asbestos was named the culprit for a number of serious, often deadly diseases.

Asbestos is considered both a health and environmental problem. Most Americans have been exposed to at least small amounts of asbestos at some point in their life. Fortunately, asbestos usually requires a substantial level of exposure over a long period of time before it begins to cause health issues. Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers has been known to cause asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma as well as cancers throughout the body from ingested fibers.

The danger in regard to abatement procedures is that asbestos, particularly old asbestos, is extremely fragile and, once disturbed, will release fibers into the air where they can become widespread and undetectable. When this occurs in an enclosed area such as a home or school, the concentration can be such that those exposed from simply breathing the air will be at a higher risk for developing an asbestos related illness later in life.

All asbestos products are potentially dangerous. The most dangerous variety is referred to as friable. Friable asbestos refers to asbestos fibers that are likely to be released or are already being released into the air after being disturbed. This would include most types of pipe insulation, spray-on insulation and boiler coverings. When these types of materials are disturbed or broken down through handling, the fibers become airborne and present a serious health risk. Asbestos materials that are contained in vinyl or cement pose a much lower health concern since the fibers are secured in another substance and are less likely to become airborne.

Laws Regarding Asbestos

 In Maine, there are laws in place to protect the public from asbestos contamination. Any work that impacts and area of asbestos material greater than three square feet or three linear feet must follow strict guidelines and regulations regarding the handling and disposal of the material. The Maine "Asbestos Management Regulations" require that proper notification be submitted to the Department prior to any work regarding handling, removal, or repair of asbestos sites. Companies performing inspections of asbestos sites must be licensed with the Department and must follow a set of work practices designed to protect workers and the public.

Owner-occupied single-family residences with asbestos siding can have that siding removed by the homeowner as long as DEP guidelines are followed; otherwise, all buildings, residential, commercial, and public, are subject to regulation with regards to asbestos issues. Also, Maine real estate laws require that all asbestos-related materials be disclosed at the time of sale. (1)

Among the many rules and regulations regarding asbestos abatement, Maine requires that contractors practice ‘wet methods’ for removal and abatement of asbestos. They are also required to use polyethylene containments and negative pressure ventilation of work areas and must follow additional rules set out by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Hygiene standards, including personal respirators and suits, are mandated by OSHA and must be used in conjunction with the work practices listed above. Several state and federal agencies share the burden of responsibility when it comes to the regulation of asbestos abatement.

- Maine DEP: Primary asbestos contact in Maine. Responsibilities include regulating licensing, notification, training, storage, transportation, disposal and work practices for removal, inspection, design, monitoring, and analysis of asbestos.

- Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Regulations include the Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule (AHERA), the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), and the Worker Protection Rule. The Maine DEP is delegated to implement the AHERA and NESHAP rules in Maine.

- Federal OSHA: responsibilities include regulating employee exposure to asbestos in the workplace through the asbestos construction and industry standards. (2)

Asbestos Regulations

 Maine regulates asbestos removal and abatement through Chapter 425 of the MDEP regulations. This Chapter establishes the rules for licensing and certification of organizations or individuals who are involved with asbestos abatement activities. These rules also outline the work practices mandated by the State of Maine.

If you are seeking a contractor for use in an asbestos abatement project, keep these rules and regulations in mind.

  1. All Maine asbestos removal contractors must be licensed by the state.
  2. All Maine asbestos removal workers must be trained and licensed.
  3. MDEP must be notified whenever asbestos in excess of three linear feet or three square feel is removed; in such cases all MDEP work practices must be followed.
  4. Air sampling must be conducted at the conclusion of the job, and there must be documentation to ensure a safe return to the abated area.
  5. All asbestos must be deposited in an EPA-approved landfill. Some siding and other non-friable asbestos can be put in local landfills depending on the circumstances. Check with the MDEP before disposing of any asbestos material.

All asbestos removal workers and contractors must receive state-approved training on removal techniques and work practices. If a contractor tells you that they can remove more than the standard three square or linear feet of asbestos material without notifying the DEP and without receiving a DEP non-hazardous waste transporter decal, contact the Maine DEP immediately. Remember, this type of illegal activity will extend liability to you as the home or property owner (3).

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