There is no denying that Mesothelioma and the asbestos that causes it are serious problems. Especially in areas such as St. Louis where an abundance of historic buildings are still filled with the stuff. When faced with friable (reduced to smaller pieces with little effort) asbestos insulation, siding and flooring materials, most property owners and contractors realize that professional remediation is the only safe method. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MODNR) and the City of Saint Louis Air Pollution Control Program (SLAPCP) take the issue even further though. Did you know that any time a property is rehabbed a property in the City of St. Louis, the SLAPCP requires have an asbestos inspection by a state-certified inspector? Yeah, neither did I.
Anywhere in the State of Missouri, the MODNR requires an asbestos inspection on commercial buildings and residential properties with more than four units, when a project will disturb at least 10 square feet and/or 16 linear feet of Regulated Asbestos Containing Materials (RACM). That would exempt most mom-and-pop rehabbers, but if the building in question is in the City. In the City of St. Louis, the rules are more restrictive. In St. Louis, all projects that will disturb this much RACM must be inspected: REGARDLESS OF PROPERTY SIZE!
If these rules only applied to buildings with obvious asbestos problems, they would be more reasonable. However, consider a few examples of what the State considers potential RACM:
- Thermal insulation
- Any fireproofing
- Carpet underlayment
- Flooring tiles
- Pipe insulation
- Sound proofing
- Roofing materials
- Drywall compounds and plaster
If any of this material is present in an older building, and will be disturbed by any renovation or demolition, an inspection is required. Since the potential for asbestos exists, they want to know for sure. Seeing as how just about any work at an older property will affect one or more of these regulated materials, its safe to say that just about any rehab work requires an inspection.
Other than being yet another hoop to jump through, the additional costs incurred from these inspection could be significant on projects of all sizes. Not only do these inspections average around $500 depending on provider and building size, but any issues found will need to be fixed by a certified contractor. Even something as menial as old caulk could really hurt the budget if friable asbestos is located. With requirements such as these, the newly toughed lead rules from the EPA, shrinking historic tax credits, and the down economy, it seems that the powers that be continue to stack the deck against fixing up our neglected properties. One has to wonder what they will pick on next (Radon?).
On the brightside, although this law has been in force since at least 2002, this is honestly the first I have heard of it. Perhaps the those called out on the issue are merely unlucky or egregious violators. If that is the case, its a safe bet that many rehabbers will continue to operate without complying with these inspection requirement as they always have. On the other hand, there could be more to this. With shrinking budgets, City Hall might be trying to pull in more revenue by cracking down on this sporadically enforced area of local law. If that is the case, be prepared for this to this issue crop up if you are rehabbing without an asbestos inspection. For more on asbestos regulations and inspections in the City of St. Louis, check out the Air Pollution Control website.
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