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Asbestos Pile


This Industry Profile Fact Sheet is presented by the EPA Region 3 to assist state, local, and municipal agencies, and private groups in the initial planning and evaluation of sites being considered for remediation, redevelopment or reuse. It is intended to provide a general description of site conditions and contaminants which may be encountered at specific industrial facilities. This fact sheet is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a federal policy or directive.


Asbestos piles can result from natural resources (including mining operation), ship building yards, tailing from industrial operations and disposal of operation debris.


Any material containing asbestos at more than one percent is designated as asbestos containing material (ACM). The common types of asbestos found in a pile are chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite. Other types of asbestos which can also be found in small quantities in the pile are anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite.


The main contributor of asbestos to an asbestos pile is domestic debris. Three forms of ACM are typically found in buildings: (1) sprayed or trawled-on material; (2) insulation on pipes, boilers and ducts; and (3) miscellaneous forms, such as wallboard, ceiling tiles and floor tiles. This material arrives at the pile from building demolition work or during remodeling of existing structures. Naturally occurring asbestos may result from the excavation for a building foundation, in areas where bed rock contains asbestos fibers. ACM can also be generated during mining operations and as tailings from certain industrial manufacturing processes. During earlier times, ACM was used as an insulating agent in various areas of a ship. Friable asbestos may be responsible for the pollution of air, water and soil. Asbestos is a direct inhalation threat to humans. Potential health effects of asbestos exposure are asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer and other cancer disorders.


The most common types of asbestos, chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite, cannot be distinguished by visual observation. The presence of asbestos must be determined by sampling and laboratory analysis. Bulk samples from an asbestos pile must be analyzed in a laboratory accredited by the U. S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). The method should be by polarized light microscopy (PLM). A finding of less than one percent asbestos is required for all samples in a homogenous area to determine that it contains no ACM; only one sample needs to be analyzed as greater than one percent to determine that a homogenous area contains ACM.

Erosion and sedimentation control must be considered during any on-site activity at the asbestos pile. Before starting any work, an erosion and sedimentation plan must be approved by the county or the township authority.


Percentage of asbestos present in the suspected asbestos containing material by PLM.

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization

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