The regulation of Asbestos Testing in California has evolved over the years, leading to much confusion as to who is required to test prior to demolition / renovation, when it should be done, and for what purposes. Add to this confusion the stacking of Local and State conditions as well as the lack of consistent enforcement and you have the predictable outcome; large occurrences of potentially harmful exposure activities and unlimited amounts of liability.
For clarity on when an Asbestos Test is Required in California we asked for information from our local South Coast Air Quality Management District team and received both a phone call and written response in August 2021. In the response it was quite clear where the law stands currently. We have included the full text at the end of this article.
Myth #1: Age matters
“Most people have no idea when an Asbestos Test is required in California, and many that believe they know are misguided and make reference to 1979 and older as the only condition.”
– Chris Chapleau, Lead Asbestos Supervisor for Mailman Environmental, when asked what percentage of industry professionals follow the current regulations.
The most common misperception is that once Asbestos was banned all uses of it stopped and therefore no testing is required if the building was built sooner than 1980. While it is true that many uses were banned, others were overturned in the years to follow and either way the regulatory statutes make NO REFERENCE to age of property.
Myth #2: Leave it to the Professionals, they know the rules.
“I don’t need to test it, we tested before in another unit”
“If I needed to test the plumber or contractor would have handled it”
In multi-unit complexes where Landlord-Tenant relationships exist it is quite common for repair work to be completed when no survey was performed on the specific materials in question, as required by the South Coast AQMD Rule 1403.
The language of SCAQMD Rule 1403 only allows for certain exemptions from the survey requirement. The exemption is as follows:
Rule 1403 (j)(10): The survey requirements of subparagraph (d)(1)(A) shall not apply to renovation activities of residential single-unit dwellings in which less than 100 square feet of surface area of ACM are removed or stripped.
Not the Only Player in the Game
It is imperative to note that other regulatory bodies also have jurisdiction, such as requirements by CalOSHA to protect workers, requirements set forth in AHERA which have specific requirements for educational institutions, and local City ordinances as part of their permitting process (City of Los Angeles as an example).
It is also important that if you are in a Landlord / Tenant relationship than statutes designed to protect the tenant may not offer the landlord/homeowner full protection. It is the recommendation of Mailman Environmental to perform an Asbestos and/or Lead test, contain the area in alignment with industry standards, and have the work performed by a licensed contractor to minimize liability.
Keeping it Simple
To help you avoid having to read through hundreds of pages of material we have boiled it down to a few quick questions to give you the answer of whether an Asbestos Test is required.
Is the material(s) being removed/disturbed less than 100 sq. ft. ?
Is the property a single-family residence (i.e. not a condo/apartment, commercial property, school)?
Is the property a rental (i.e. tenant/landlord relationship)?
Are there known health concerns with any of the residents?
If you answered no to all the above – Congratulations! A test is likely not required in the State of California (as of August 2021) however if you are looking for peace of mind, or to act out of an abundance of caution, feel free to call us today to talk about your project in more detail.
Full text of email exchange with South Coast AQMD in August 2021:
As discussed, with respect to your question regarding testing, please see South Coast AQMD Rule 1403(j)(10) – page 26 of the rule. Only in the scenario mentioned would the survey requirement not apply:
• (j)(10) The survey requirements of subparagraph (d)(1)(A) shall not apply to renovation activities of residential single-unit dwellings in which less than 100 square feet of surface area of ACM are removed or stripped.
With respect to the notification requirements, please refer to South Coast AQMD Rule 1403(j)(1) and (j)(2) – page 25 of the rule:
• (j)(1) The notification requirements of subparagraph (d)(1)(B) and the training requirements of subdivision (i) shall not apply to renovation activities, other than planned renovation activities which involve non-scheduled renovation operations, in which less than 100 square feet of surface area of ACM are removed or stripped.
• (j)(2) The notification requirements of subparagraph (d)(1)(B) and the training requirements of subdivision (i) shall not apply to planned renovation activities which involve non-scheduled renovation operations, in which the total quantity of ACM to be removed or stripped within each calendar year of activity is less than 100 square feet of surface area.
In regards to the removal aspect of asbestos containing material, please refer to South Coast AQMD Rule 1403(d)(1)(D) – page 13 of the rule.
Lastly, in regards to recordkeeping, please refer to South Coast AQMD Rule 1403(g)(4) – page 24 of the rule.
• (g)(4) In lieu of the requirements of paragraph (g)(1), the owner or operator of a renovation activity at any facility, in which less than 100 square feet of surface area of ACM on facility components is removed or stripped, may instead elect to maintain the following information for a period of not less than three (3) years, and make it available to the District upon request:
o (A) A copy of all survey-related documents;
o (B) Records containing an estimate of the amount of ACM removed or stripped at each renovation subject to this paragraph;
o (C) Type of removal controls used for each renovation; and
o (D) A copy of all Waste Shipment Records.
I have attached to this email a copy of a compliance advisory which further solidifies the aspect of the rule.
Should you have any questions, feel free to reach out.
xxxx (blacked out for privacy)
Air Quality Inspector
South Coast Air Quality Management District
21865 Copley Drive, Diamond Bar, CA 91765
South Coast AQMD Rule 1403: http://www.aqmd.gov/docs/default-source/rule-book/reg-xiv/rule-1403.pdf
US EPA Asbestos Regulations: https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/asbestos-laws-and-regulations
Pleural Mesothelioma: https://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/pleural/