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Moisture Intrusion – And Why Flooding Means Surveying Your Building For Asbestos And Lead

Sunny California... until it isn’t! Years of drought have understandably left most fairly complacent with the condition of their building’s roofs, doors, and windows. Flooding of structures from these failed systems can be catastrophic.

With the recent torrential rains, many building owners have gotten a splash course in the trials and tribulations of building ownership. In the rush to remove moisture-impacted walls or carpeting to dry out their spaces, many building owners are unknowingly violating South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Rule 1403 regulatory requirements. With already astronomical monetary losses and insurance claims looming from flood damage, the last thing an owner needs is to be issued a hefty fine by a regulatory agency... or, for the potential of something far worse to happen.

What exactly is being violated?

SCAQMD Rule 1403 is the regulation governing work practice requirements to limit potential asbestos emissions from the renovation, demolition, or associated disturbance of building materials in Southern California. The regulation requires that prior to any disturbance, building materials be surveyed and sampled for asbestos content. A complete survey is one which includes the credentials of the Certified Asbestos Consultant who performed the survey, a floor plan marking exact sample and material locations, and a summary and quantification of the materials sampled.

You may be saying to yourself – My structure was built in 2018, or maybe even 2022, this regulation doesn’t impact me, right?

WRONG. The survey requirements under Rule 1403 stand regardless of the age of the building OR material being disturbed (i.e., if a material was installed at 6:30pm and becomes damaged by flooding at 6:31 pm, it needs to be sampled under SCAQMD Rule 1403 requirements prior to its removal).   

How does performing removal, renovation, or demolition without a survey lead to fines and delays (or worse)?

So, you’ve called an emergency restoration contractor after a surprise flood. Within hours of your call, the contractor mobilizes – immediately, they move to ripping out saturated drywall and carpeting with adhered floor tile from your building. Materials are thrown into your business’s dumpster as the crew feverishly attempts to dry out your space. Suddenly, or sometimes even days after removal, you get a call from someone at the restoration company requesting the building survey to prove that their workers haven’t been exposed to asbestos or lead at your site. You don’t have a survey; you’ve understandably hired a professional to work in your space and would have anticipated that they would request any required documentation prior to performing their work. Hearing that there is no survey, and almost as if they knew the exact next steps to take, the contractor notifies SCAQMD of the project. An SCAQMD inspector subsequently arrives at your site and performs a hazard assessment of the dumpster and the remaining materials in your space. Asbestos is discovered to be present in disturbed flooring materials. SCAQMD responds by red tagging your business – requiring immediate closure and site cleanup under a special Procedure 5 work plan. SCAQMD also issues fines for not having a building survey prior to removal. The contractor who performed the removal inserts the final nail by serving you notice of pending litigation for exposing their workers to asbestos in your structure. A bad day has just turned into a bad year..

Though the above is essentially a “perfect storm,” it chronicles the seemingly mundane details of flood response that can quite literally cost you your business. Sometimes, as above, the call to SCAQMD comes from the contractor who knows the law but keeps the owner in the dark to make money off of related litigation. Sometimes the call comes from a concerned employee... sometimes the call comes from a nosey passerby who sees a dumpster full of building materials and “knows a thing or two.” In our experience, and however that call ends up being made, it always comes.  

Manage these risks, and perhaps most importantly your sanity, by calling Ellis Environmental to schedule an asbestos and lead survey of your flood damaged building today.