Ontario’s Asbestos Removal & Disposal Regulations

Hey folks, Pete Ferrante here. Welcome to my new informational series where I look to help you navigate the waters of environmental abatement and hazardous material removal.

I’ll be taking a sort of layman’s, easy to approach fashion to these questions to provide as much value to you as I can.

In our first series, we’re diving deep into asbestos removal to answer any potential questions you may have. In part one, I’ll be discussing what you need to know about Ontario regulations around asbestos removal.

Pete Ferrante is the President and CEO of FERRO Environmental. He specializes in full spectrum abatement and remediation — such as asbestos and soil remediation — and is committed to bringing the top industry talent to his clients’ projects. The result? FERRO regularly appears as a PROFIT 100 Company in Canada.

He also sits on the Board of Environmental Abatement Council of Ontario (EACO) and the Toronto Construction Association’s Environmental Committee.

Check out the rest of the series on Asbestos Removal!

The following is an edited transcript.

Why is Asbestos Removal Regulated?

To start, why is asbestos removal regulated in the first place? What makes it so dangerous?

Well, the reality is asbestos is a hazardous material. It’s very simple.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. When it breaks apart, it basically disintegrates and comes apart in pieces or strands. When it gets airborne, it is potentially dangerous to humans.

It’s really as simple as that. That’s the reason it’s regulated.

I mean, asbestos was applied for years, it’s a wonderful tool. The ability to fuse heat, and electricity, and that sort of thing is what made it so popular, but the reality is they didn’t realize how dangerous it was until it was too late.

This is a material that had been installed for decades, right up until the mid-1980s before it was banned here in Canada.

It really started the cycle of having to remove it since then. We’ve kind of run into a situation where we’ve spent decades installing this material, and now we are consequently spending decades removing it.

And, the removal process is a lot more difficult and a lot more time consuming than the installation.

Ontario Regulations for Asbestos Removal

If you’re in Ontario, what specific regulations around asbestos removal do you need to be aware of?

It really depends on what stage of the project you’re talking about.

If you are a property owner or a real estate developer in the province, then the Occupational Health and Safety Act specifically addresses how and when you need to identify your asbestos. That’s the first stage.

Understanding Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act

There’s a segment within the Occupational Health and Safety Act that deals with designated substances.

There’s a variety of them, but for the purpose of this series, we’ll talk about asbestos. The most common substances are asbestos, mold, lead, that sort of thing.

The regulation says is that you need to perform a designated substance survey, also known as a DSS, on every building within the province that is over two stories or non-residential.

To do this, you need a qualified person, specifically in this case, an environmental consultant makes the most sense. There’s a bunch of them out there, I would highly recommend anybody from the EACO website. You can find an entire list of professional environmental consultants.

The act actually dictates exactly how to perform a DDS. It tells you:

  • How many samples to take;
  • How it gets tested;
  • And, how to identify any designated substances within that building.

So that anytime there are renovations done — whether you’re considering demolishing the building, repositioning it, or removing certain finishes and reinstalling — anybody that performs that work or performs maintenance on that building has the right to know if they’re going to come into contact with any of these hazardous materials.

Remember, this person must have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

This allows them to set up the area properly.

Depending on the substance and the volume and what that containment looks like, they have guidance on how it gets removed, how it gets handled, how it gets disposed of, etc.

It all starts from the designated substance survey.


Explaining Ontario Regulation 278/05 on Asbestos

Then, if we’re speaking specifically about asbestos, it would get into Ontario Regulation 278/05, which deals very specifically with how asbestos is removed.

Asbestos gets removed differently than lead, or PCBs, or any of the others because it’s so hazardous to the people that are disturbing it and removing it.

There are certain steps that you need to take to protect yourself as a worker and to protect people in surrounding or adjoining areas that could potentially be exposed to the asbestos and the fibers’dust once it gets kicked up during removal.

So, that’s the actual abatement regulation, and then there are others that deal with the disposal of it.

Disposing of Asbestos According to Ontario Law

Asbestos can only be disposed of at certain authorized dump sites in Ontario.

Most municipalities will have a section within their local disposal facility that they allow household hazardous materials or locally-generated hazardous materials.

For the most part, anything that’s generated at a large scale gets shipped to one of the few specific facilities within the province, and there’s a whole procedure for doing that.

Proper disposing of asbestos includes being aware and knowledgeable about:

  • The chain of custody;
  • That the asbestos is contained properly;
  • That it is transported in closed containers;
  • And, that when it is taken to a specific site to be disposed of, it is actually buried after it’s been dropped off.

Challenges of Ontario’s Abatement Regulations

What challenges do you face regarding Ontario’s abatement regulations? Are they missing anything about asbestos removal?

There’s always room for improvement in anything.

Really, the Ontario ministries that support the regulation — the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks — they’re a finite resource and they only have so many people.

I really wish that they had a better ability to source out those companies — those firms — that are causing the biggest problems and put a black mark on what really should be a celebrated industry.

Making the World a Better Place One Project at a Time

I know this is going to sound silly, but I’ve been in it for 15 years under my own flag. Every time FERRO goes out and gets the job done, I look at it like, “Man, we’re doing some good. We’re making the world a better place one project at a time.”

Right? We’re solving a specific problem that people are nervous or scared of dealing with. Everybody goes running out and we go running in to help them out.

I really wish there was a better opportunity to identify and deal harshly with people that intentionally ignore the rules for personal financial gain.


Limitations of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act

You’ve spoken about the designated substance survey (DSS) — are there any issues around that procedure?

Secondly, one of my biggest concerns is under the Occupational Health and Safety Act where designated substance surveys are mandated.

A challenge that the industry is currently facing is that once the DSS is generated, sometimes when institutions or corporations are completing a renovation, they’ll hand it off as a scope of work when that is not its purpose.

A DSS identifies that there are these types of materials in a building.

To solve this issue, I wish there was some sort of legislation that mandated that the proper scope of work should be generated by a qualified person — i.e. a professional environmental consultant — who can assess what needs to be done.

That trained specialist can then determine whether it’s a partial demolition or interior demolition, or whether the abatement of certain materials in this area is “because we’re going to renovate this.”

The goal is to reduce the number of mistakes, the number of accidental exposures to asbestos and other materials, and generally create a safe and healthy project guideline for everybody to follow.

FERRO Environmental Can Help You with Asbestos Removal

Thanks for reading the first part of my series on asbestos removal in Ontario. By all means, feel free to reach out if there’s anything that I haven’t addressed, or if you have a specific project or question that you need answering.

As always, I will do my best to help you out.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of this series!

FERRO Environmental offers a full spectrum of environmental contracting services to ensure that when you only have one chance to get it right with waste disposal, your site and your bottom-line are always protected. Contact us to learn how we can help you today!