December 9, 2020

Is an ESA is required for Demolition?

Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) are typically done for many purposes, including land rezoning, purchase of property, redevelopment of the site, and divestment of property. In addition, as part of regulatory requirements, the inspection should be carried out to allow you to evaluate the site’s baseline environmental standards before you begin demolishing any existing structures.

Why an ESA is required before demolition

1.    The Site’s Environmental Condition

An Environmental Site Assessment gives you insight into the history of the site, regarding its past uses, as well as development. This helps you to understand the kind of activities that have been carried out on a specified site in the past, and how the historical uses might have impacted its environmental conditions. As such, you can predict whether demolishing the existing structures on such a site could trigger undesirable environmental changes, which may be detrimental to the immediate environment, and the surrounding properties.

2.    Make Informed Decisions

Conducting an ESA enables you to make informed choices pertaining to the most suitable demolition strategy, the kind of tools and equipment to use, as well as any additional services that might be required after the demolition is done. The strategy might involve conventional demolition techniques such as excavation, vérinage (deliberate collapse), explosion or implosion and ramming.

  • Demolition Strategy: Demolishing structures requires careful preparation and planning in order to minimize the environmental impact and prevent damage to neighboring structures. For this reason, conducting ESA enables you to determine the most suitable demolition strategies and techniques to use, depending on prevailing environmental factors.
  • Tools and Equipment: The range of tools and equipment that can be used for demolishing structures depends on the strategy. Some of the equipment used include elevated work platforms, articulated haulers, rotational hydraulic shears, wrecking balls, dozers, compactors, excavators, cranes and loaders.
  • Additional Services: The assessment will help you to identify various remediation services that may be required before or after the demolition. These include mine & plant closures, plant dismantling, soil remediation, and earth moving services.

3.    Develop Site-Specific Work & Safety Plans

Environmental Site Assessment is crucial in identifying health and safety concerns within the site. For instance, it enables you to determine if the site contains regulated and/or hazardous material such as asbestos or discarded chemicals, which may pose health and safety risks to the workers on site, and the people living or working in neighboring properties. As such, you will be able to come up with plans for making the site safe, before demolition work begins. Some of the steps that you could take include asbestos abatement, and the removal of hazardous material. Examples of items that need to be removed include:

  • Pieces of glass since they can easily form projectiles
  • Hazardous chemicals such as oil, paint, pesticides, and cleaners
  • Radioactive material
  • Discarded batteries
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Refrigerants
  • Mercury thermostats

4.    Compliance With Regulatory Requirements

Conducting ESA helps you to understand the various regulatory requirements that you may have to comply with, including the acquisition of the necessary permits and submission of notifications to relevant parties. It also helps you determine the utilities that need to be disconnected before the demolition.

5.    Identification of Potential Liabilities

An Environmental Site Assessment helps you to identify any potential liability that might arise as a result of the demolition.  Sometimes, demolishing buildings or other structures releases hazardous waste in the environment. The resultant pollution may expose you to legal liability. The information gathered during the ESA can help you to estimate the cleanup cost and come up with remediation plans after the demolition is done. In addition, you can use State or Federal regulations to determine who is supposed to bear any such liability, in as far as cleanup is concerned i.e. disposal, containment, or removal.

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