Pushing to better track trash
CHRISTIANSBURG — A new hazardous materials tracking form for construction debris implemented in Montgomery County has some contractors worried that it will increase illegal dumping and bureaucratic hassles.
But solid waste officials say the form has been required in some localities for a decade, and that it simply spells out state and federal regulations that contractors and others have been required for years to follow.
Until recently, drivers who hauled construction debris to the Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority transfer station in Christiansburg dumped their load, signed a ticket and paid a tipping fee. Whether they knew it or not, in signing that ticket, drivers were certifying that the debris was free of any prohibited hazardous materials, including some forms of asbestos.
But since Sept. 11, those drivers have been asked to present a “construction debris manifest” signed by the contractor on the job, the property owner who hired the contractor and the local building official.
In signing the form, the property owner and contractor certify that the debris is free of prohibited hazardous materials. If prohibited materials are found later, they must pay for environmental cleanup.
Alan Cummins, director of MRSWA since 2006, said the new process will ensure that only construction debris from jobs in Montgomery County is accepted, that construction work is properly permitted and that hazardous waste, especially asbestos, is better monitored and tracked.
The form was implemented at the request of the New River Resource Authority in Dublin, which has received all Montgomery County’s solid waste since the late 1990s, when the Christ-iansburg landfill was closed. Today the Christ-iansburg facility is a central drop-off for solid waste and recyclable materials. It also operates brush-to-mulch and tire grinding programs.
Up to several times a day, large trucks haul Montgomery County’s trash from Christiansburg to Dublin, where the Cloyds Mountain landfill takes in up to 1,000 tons of waste a day. In addition to Montgomery County, that landfill serves the counties of Pulaski, Giles, Floyd, Wythe and Bland, as well as Virginia Tech and the city of Radford.
Construction on a 13-acre landfill expansion is nearly complete. The new area is expected to take the New River Valley’s waste for five to eight years before a new area needs to be developed, said Joe Levine, director of the New River Resource Authority.
Since its founding in the 1980s, 50 acres of the 350 acres set aside for future landfill use have been developed, including the new 13‑acre area.
Levine said the NRRA has required a signed manifest for construction debris for the past decade, and for years has been asking its members and customers to also implement them.
The rules laid out in the document are not new, either. Levine said they have been in place since 1993.
But the manifest system strikes Rick Hyatt of Christiansburg-based Atmosphere Builders as unnecessary regulatory overreach.
“This was dumped on us with a letter that basically said this is effective immediately. … This is an additional procedure the government is putting on small business,” Hyatt said.
According to Hyatt, the new process will add costs to remodeling and construction jobs “that will ultimately fall back on the homeowner.”
Furthermore, he said, “I suspect the more complicated it becomes to deliver this stuff to the dump and pay for it, too, you’re going to see people dumping this stuff in the hollows again.”
Another thing Hyatt doesn’t like: The form must be presented even for debris from minor remodeling jobs that don’t require a building permit. Debris from those minor jobs must now be accompanied by a manifest signed by the local building official, adding a previously unnecessary visit to the building office.
Cummins acknowledged that inconvenience.
“It’s extra work, and we didn’t want to bring that on the contractors,” he said. “But when you’re talking about hazardous waste, there is no perfect solution.”
“We need to keep an eye on asbestos. It’s a human health issue,” he added.
Asbestos is a common additive in both new and old building materials, such as roofing shingles, siding and acoustic tiles.
Asbestos materials are described either as friable or non-friable. Crumbling and brittle materials are friable, meaning they can release the dangerous fibers into the air. Breathing in these fibers can cause deadly lung diseases, including cancer and asbestosis.
Non-friable asbestos is found in solid materials that won’t easily release the fibers, except by cutting or sanding.
These solid materials, if packaged according to regulations, are accepted at area landfills. Friable materials are not.
And asbestos is not rare, even in newer buildings, Levine said.
Undeclared asbestos can endanger workers at the construction site, and the landfill, as well as people living or working nearby. It’s also expensive to clean up.
Testing for it, however, is simple and cheap. It can be done locally for $15 to $25, Levine said.
As to the fear that some people might dump debris illegally because of the new process, Levine said “there will always be people who don’t do the right thing.”
But the old dumping mentality is slowly going by the wayside as young people embrace recycling and other sustainability initiatives, he said.
Cummins said the new process is being phased in gradually at the Christiansburg facility. Granted, contractors “may feel it was dropped right in their lap. But we’re taking two or three months before it’s enforced,” he said.
No contractor is being turned away at the transfer station, according to Cummins.
“We’re trying to educate them as we go,” he said.
And not all contractors dislike the new process. In fact, Cat White of Pembroke-based RA Homebuilders supports the change.
“It won’t hurt my business at all. In fact, I think it will help,” White said.
The new form will make it harder for unlicensed contractors to do work without required permits, which can take business away from licensed contractors who follow the rules, White said.
Besides, he added, the new process helps the environment.
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