A builder with a truck full of construction materials pulls up to a bay at Metro Central transfer station on a recent Thursday. Spotters go over, lift the tarp and inspect the load underneath. They confer with the driver, who then reverses and drives away without dumping his load.
The problem: The load included textured drywall, also known as popcorn ceiling. That’s a building material that could contain asbestos, a tiny fiber that’s linked to serious health problems. Any garbage that may contain it needs to be tested for asbestos before it can be disposed at a Metro transfer station.
For building contractors and do-it-yourself home improvers alike, the process is the same: If you’re disposing of certain kinds of building materials, proof that they contain less than 1 percent asbestos is required at both Metro Central in Northwest Portland and Metro South in Oregon City.
If you plan to take building materials to a Metro transfer station, you’ll need to provide printed test results certifying that any items on the list below contain 1 percent or less asbestos by weight.
- Interior walls and ceilings: acoustical tiles, glue dots, plaster, and textured surfaces
- Exterior walls: cement siding, stucco
- Flooring: vinyl tiles, sheet vinyl, some mastic adhesives
- Insulation/fireproofing: block, boiler, spray-applied, vermiculite, monokote, sink undercoating, thermal system insulation (fiberglass, cellulose, and mineral wool are exempt)
- Gaskets: furnace, mechanical, boiler, wood stove (automotive gaskets are exempt)
- Heating: white paper or seam tape on ducts, air-duct cement and insulation
- Roofing materials: tar paper, felt, silver/white roofing paint, Nicolite paper
- Fire doors, fire/kiln brick and fireproofing
- Various compounds: window glazing, adhesives, caulks, patching, mastics, vapor barrier products (plastic or synthetic materials such as Tyvek are exempt)
- Electrical: switch gear, circuit boxes and fuse panels; wiring with cloth insulation (Romex wiring is exempt)
Still have questions? Learn more online or call Metro at 503-234-3000.
It’s something you need to plan for before you start sawing, grinding, or tearing up household building materials that will be making their way to a debris pile you’ll be hauling away.
Check the list of building materials that need testing
Asbestos is a silicate mineral, and its name likely comes from the Greek word meaning indestructible. It adds durability, flexibility and heat resistance to building materials and was widely used in construction materials between the 1940s and 1980s. In houses built in that era, asbestos could be present in the floors, roofing, walls, heating materials, insulation, electrical wiring, window caulking, siding and more.
When intact construction materials like these are disturbed or demolished, tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air. These can be inhaled or swallowed causing serious health problems, including cancer, for anyone who may breathe them – from the homeowner doing a weekend project to the transfer station worker moving the debris.
When left undisturbed, asbestos is not dangerous.
So though you might be anxious to find out if that mauve linoleum floor is covering pristine Douglas fir, there are a few steps you need to take first to protect yourself and your local waste workers, and make your trip to the Metro transfer station easier.
Check the list
Before you swing the sledgehammer, check the list of materials that may contain asbestos. These must be tested before they can be disposed of.
You might think about hiring an accredited asbestos inspector to survey your project for materials that may contain asbestos.
Do the paperwork
Before starting demolition work, send small samples of suspect materials to an approved lab to be tested.
In order to be disposed of at Metro, materials must contain less than 1 percent of asbestos by weight. If that’s what the test results say, fill out a Construction Waste and Demolition form and bring it, along with the asbestos-free construction waste and a printed copy of the test results –electronic copies won’t do.
Know what’s in your load
Your first stop at a Metro transfer station is the scalehouse. The operator there may ask if you are carrying household or construction waste and you’ll need to provide information about what you’re hauling.
From there you’ll be directed to a bay where spotters inspect construction materials. You’ll need to clearly describe what’s in your load and show your paperwork for any materials that may contain asbestos.
If all is in order and your test results indicate that the materials in your load contain one percent or less of asbestos by weight, you can dump your load and return home to get to work on those fir floors.
Learn more about prepping a load for a trip to a Metro transfer station
If your materials contain asbestos, you still have options
But what if your test results come back positive for asbestos? Customers with household waste can take small amounts containing asbestos to Metro’s hazardous waste facilities, located adjacent to the transfer stations. You can take up to two 6-mil bags per day, each weighing no more than 25 pounds. The bags need to be double-lined and must be sealed before arrival at the facility.
Larger amounts of asbestos-containing items can be taken to Hillsboro Landfill or Wasco County Landfill in The Dalles. Call them for details on how to prepare your load.