Not all contractors use best practices and not all contractors follow the rules established by the DNR, EPA, and state agencies such as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. In some cases contractors are ignorant to the rules, in some cases they are ignoring the rules, and in some cases they are knowingly breaking the rules. Regardless of the reason, both contractor and homeowner are liable for any health or environmental hazards that are created.
As homeowner, you are responsible for the method used when your vermiculite is being removed. While you may be able to take legal action against a contractor for endangering your safety or polluting your neighborhood, if the contractor is not properly insured and licensed it may not matter. Here is a short set of questions for both homeowners and contractors that are entering into contract for removal of vermiculite. See below for greater detail.
All Contractors in Wisconsin disturbing or removing vermiculite must comply with the following:
- The contractor must be a licensed asbestos abatement company in Wisconsin, or whichever state the work is being performed
- The contractor must only allow trained and Wisconsin certified “asbestos supervisors” to perform the work
- Obtain a “special waste profile” and disclose to the landfill scale operator that the waste is vermiculite and may contain asbestos. Disposing at a landfill without informing the scale operator will create a great deal of liability for the “generator” of the vermiculite (the homeowner) and the
- Inform the Wisconsin DHS of location and dates of vermiculite work prior to removal, and post the notification in plain view at all times when the work is being performed
- All vacuum equipment used must be EPA compliant and all vacuum exhaust must pass through HEPA rated filters. Capturing vermiculite waste in an attic vacuum bag that is placed in an enclosed or open trailer will contaminate the owner’s property, and likely the neighborhood, if all of the exhaust from the bag is not captured and passed through a HEPA filter.
- There are no test results that can change the above. Unlike plaster, roofing material, floor tiling, etc that can be tested for presence of asbestos, the EPA has determined that there is no reliable test for the presence of asbestos in vermiculite. As a result, all vermiculite must be treated as containing asbestos regardless of any test results from any lab.
In addition, vermiculite removal work is NOT covered by contractor liability insurance. Homeowners are strongly advised to obtain a valid certificate showing proof of Pollution Liability Insurance. Any claims resulting from damage to property, health, or environment during vermiculite removal are NOT covered by contractor liability insurance. Experience has proven that general contractor’s caught performing asbestos and vermiculite related work have been dropped by their insurance company upon renewal.
Below is a Q&A that addresses several of these issue sin more detail.
If my contractor has liability insurance are they covered if they create a health hazard or pollute my home, yard, or neighborhood?
Answer: No. Contractor liability does not cover costs stemming from pollution incidents. Contractors that only carry contractor liability insurance would be dropped by their insurance provider if they new they were completing asbestos related work. In order to handle asbestos containing materials, or those materials the EPA has determined to be unreliable, a contractor must have pollution liability insurance if they wish to be covered. When in doubt, request a “Certificate of Insurance” from your prospective contractor and then call the insurance company and ask if the contractor is covered for asbestos related work.
What is pollution liability insurance?
Answer: Pollution liability insurance is insurance for remediation costs stemming from pollution incidents that are caused by a contractor’s work. Pollution liability insurance is very expensive and is only offered to companies with an excellent record of performance and claims history. All general contractor liability insurance include exclusions for asbestos related work, and such claims are not covered.
If a contractor is a “Certified Asbestos Company” does that mean they have pollution liability insurance and are following safe practices, including proper disposal?
Answer: No. In Wisconsin any company that pays a $400 licensing fee and employs at least one individual that has completed a 4 day asbestos training program will be listed as a certified asbestos company by the Wisconsin DHS (Department of Health Services). See below for information related to safe practices and legal disposal.
If a contractor is a “Certified Asbestos Company” does that mean they will follow safe practices as required by DHS, DNR, and EPA?
Answer: No guarantee. Contractors are expected to follow the required and advised best practices, but there is little regulation especially when these referenced agencies are not notified. For example, the Wisconsin DHS requires notification any time a contractor disturbs more than a typical garbage bag full of asbestos containing material. By all interpretations, this means DHS requires notification for anyone disturbing or removing vermiculite from an attic. This required prior notification allows DHS to show up unannounced and inspect all methods and worker certifications.
If a contractor is a “Certified Asbestos Company” does that mean they have a “Special Waste Profile” and will properly dispose of the vermiculite they remove from my attic?
Answer: No guarantee. Contractors are required to inform landfills that the material they are dumping is vermiculite. Upon disclosure the landfill will require what is a called a “Special Waste Profile” and they will charge a much higher rate for dumping materials such as vermiculite and asbestos. As the “generator” of the waste material, the home owner is actually responsible for making sure the waste is disposed of properly. If a landfill determines that vermiculite was dumped improperly without the landfill’s knowledge, the contractor and homeowner will be liable for cleanup and fines from the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) that oversees landfill operations.