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EPA Takes Over Asbestos Inspections in Idaho

Release Date: 11/19/1997
Contact Information: Armina Nolan
(206) 553-1757 or 1-800-424-4EPA

November 19, 1997 - - - - - - 97-69


Effective immediately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be responsible for performing inspections for the asbestos program in Idaho to protect people from the dangers of inhaling asbestos fibers, now that the Idaho Division of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) has stated it is no longer able to perform asbestos inspections.

With this change it means that EPA must be formally notified before anyone can legally undertake a building renovation or demolition project that may involve asbestos-containing materials per federal Clean Air Act rules for hazardous air pollutants.

Asbestos fibers are classified as hazardous because these tiny fibers can lodge in the lung, causing permanent lung damage and serious diseases, including various forms of cancer.

Advance notification allows EPA to make sure that the asbestos will be handled by trained, certified workers. This increases the likelihood that materials containing asbestos fibers will be kept out of the air that people breathe. Unannounced inspections are also done to help ensure that the necessary precautions are being taken to keep the asbestos contained.

If not handled properly, asbestos fibers can become airborne, remain suspended, and be inhaled by anyone nearby.

Human exposure to asbestos fibers can result in impaired breathing ability (asbestosis), lung cancer, or mesothelioma (an untreatable abdominal cancer). There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibers, and symptoms of disease can appear decades after exposure.

IDEQ advised EPA in a letter of October 10th that “the Division will no longer operate the program and looks to EPA to uphold its obligation to do so." The letter explained that: "As we have discussed, this decision was made due to limitations of Idaho's personnel policies and the resultant effect on program staff."

As an interim measure, EPA has already arranged for a contractor to continue conducting inspections at demolition and renovation sites in order to insure continued protection of the health of Idahoans.

By terms of the federal Clean Air Act, asbestos rules violations relating to demolition and renovation projects are punishable by penalties of up to $25,000 a day.

Lynn McKee, Director of EPA’s Idaho Operations Office in Boise, said: “We’ve picked up the program where the State left off, and contractors and asbestos abatement firms should expect the same level of oversight as before. And, while we’re here to provide advice and help firms comply with the regulations, we will not be reluctant to take enforcement action where the health of Idaho citizens has potentially been put at risk.”

Anyone planning a renovation or demolition project anywhere in Idaho -- where asbestos fibers could be released into the air through removal or destruction of such things as furnace insulation, ceiling tiles, or other building materials -- must now contact the EPA’s Boise office at the following address:
Idaho Operations Office
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Boise, Idaho 83706
Phone: (208) 378-5771
Fax: (208) 378-5744

Inquiries about the responsibilities of building owners or demolition and renovation contractors can be made to the EPA office in Boise, either by mail or by phone.