Unearthing Hazardous Substances in Construction

Environmental Training Resource
June 20, 2013 — 1,618 views  
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The construction industry is responsible for making the United States one of the best-developed nations on the face of the Earth. Construction has seen giant buildings built and great skylines transformed over the centuries. But once in a while, a proposed construction site would have some construction hazardous substance located on the site, where construction was about to begin. How the construction company deals with this episode is an important aspect of the business.

Which Hazardous Substances can be Unearthed?

During construction in certain sites, a number of construction hazardous substances can be unearthed. While the harmless construction waste consists of bricks, wood, and concrete, chemicals can usually be found – causing significant damage to the fertility of the land as well as potentially affecting the people that live or are going to live on the land.

Certain components of regular construction, such as plasterboard, are known to be serious construction hazardous substances as they, when broken down, release a toxic gas known as hydrogen sulfide. Studies have shown that as much as a possible 15% of the materials that go into a building can be hazardous to the livelihood of the individuals that will eventually move in there.

Management Plan for Hazardous Wastes and Materials

Having an effective management plan when construction hazardous substances are found in a construction site is essential. The EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency, will need to be informed of the situation so that they can send their response team, while being ready for any sudden emergencies. Contingency planning is an important part of every aspect of construction, and the possibility of harmful gasses is very high up in the list of construction hazardous substances. As a result, any action must be quick and assured.

There are a number of other issues that can be faced when it comes to any construction hazardous substance. Dealing with lead contaminated soil, black slag, and other potential contaminants will need consultation with knowledgeable geologists and other experts to identify the best course of action.

Identifying exactly what activity was performed on the site before is an effective way of getting down to what could have caused the construction hazardous substance to be found in the first place. Scrap yards, service stations, stock dipping, smelting, and refining are all industries that could have left dangerous residues behind. Investigation into the root cause will, more likely than not, offer you some insight on how to go about ensuring that the problem can be solved.

The Emergency Response Program

The emergency response program to construction hazardous substances will click into action even if there is nothing more than a mere threat of the release of poisonous gases or substances. The emergency response program requires three teams to take action:

  • The Environmental Response team – which is a group of EPA experts
  • The National Response Team – an inter-agency group that provides knowledge and financial assistance before and during the emergency
  • The Regional Response Team – which conducts preparedness activities for the situation

Construction hazardous substances being encountered on construction sites are, unfortunately, a major problem and need to be dealt with the utmost tact and expertise. Simply ignoring the problem could put hundreds of lives at risk, either during the construction work itself or later when people stay or work in the constructed buildings.

Environmental Training Resource