EPA Regulations on Demolitions
A recent article from The Lima News (OH) discusses “U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's requests to the EPA to address the regulation driving up costs for cities to demolish vacant homes.”
Lima mayor supports easing EPA regulations on demolitions
Twenty-six thousand and seven hundred dollars. That's how much more it cost the city of Lima to remove asbestos from a vacant house before demolishing it recently on Pine Street because of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Lima Mayor David Berger voiced his support for U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's requests to the EPA to address the regulation driving up costs for cities to demolish vacant homes.
“We have a significant number of dilapidated, deteriorated housing here,” Berger said Wednesday. “And our ability to address that issue was really cut in half just by this regulation.”
Ohio has nearly 100,000 vacant properties awaiting demolition, according to Portman.
The newer EPA regulation was a reinterpretation of federal regulations governing asbestos removal. That regulation has increased costs and time involved with demolishing vacant properties, according to Portman.
“The prior rule was if it was no more than four units in a given structure that it could be simply treated as a regular demolition,” Berger said. “Now we have to deal with each individual property.”
Bill Brown, chief building official for the city of Lima, said asbestos abatement is what increases the price tag of demolition.
“The previous rule was actually an exemption. The exception allowed a single-family house to be exempt from the survey and asbestos regulations of commercial building removal,” Brown said. “But now it reads every house shall be surveyed and it shall be abated.”
Asbestos can cause human harm, including lung cancer, if inhaled, according to the EPA's website.
“When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems,” it reads.
The EPA was not available for comment Wednesday.
Berger said the new EPA regulation substantially raised the cost of demolition for the city at least $4,000 to $5,000 per demolition.
“It probably doubled the cost of any individual demolition from $4,000 to $5,000 to $8,000 to $10,000,” he said. “Which obviously means we can do less demolitions.”
Brown gave a specific recent example from Pine Street when the city dished out additional cash that would have been saved previously to knock down a vacant apartment.
“They did the survey and said there was asbestos fiber in the plaster,” Brown said. “But that raised the cost for tearing that structure down from $5,300 to $32,000. So those kind of things just blew our budget away.”
Asbestos abatement costs about 30 percent of what the actual demolition costs, Brown said.
“The actual average cost of the demolition was around $4,500. My abatement cost was $2,000,” he said. “That represented 30 percent of my cost just for that.”
The city could have knocked down about 87 more houses if the EPA wouldn't have slapped the additional regulation on, Brown said.
Amy Odum, community development director for the city of Lima, said according to 2010 data, around 15.3 percent of all housing units are vacant.
“Out of 17,000 that's 2,563 units that are vacant,” she said. “Now that doesn't mean they're all demo material, that just means they are empty.”
According to Portman's press office, his requests were sent to the EPA on Wednesday morning. As of Wednesday evening, the EPA had not yet responded to Portman.
To view the online article, please click here.
To view Senator Portman’s Press Release, please click here.
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