EPA Issues Memorandum on PCB-Contaminated Building Materials

Reinterpretation addresses definitions of bulk product and remediation waste.

December 21, 2012
CDR Staff
Legislation & Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final reinterpretation memorandum regarding Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated building materials: PCB Bulk Product Waste Reinterpretation. The memorandum can be viewed by clicking here.

The proposed reinterpretation of EPA’s position specifically addresses the definitions of bulk product waste, which includes PCB-contaminated caulk or paint as well as remediation waste that includes PCB-contaminated masonry or concrete.

The EPA says this distinction is important as it determines the appropriate cleanup requirements and disposal options. The reinterpretation being proposed would allow building material such as substrate “coated or serviced” with PCB bulk product waste at the time of disposal to be managed as a PCB bulk product waste, even if the PCBs have migrated from the overlying bulk product waste into the substrate.

The EPA says it decided to issue the reinterpretation because in recent years it has learned a great deal about the extent to which products manufactured to contain PCBs were used in many buildings, including schools, before the manufacture of PCBs was banned by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). As more buildings were discovered to have PCB contamination, it was also discovered that PCBs can leach from those PCB manufactured products into attached porous building materials, says the EPA. EPA has received many requests to address difficulties the regulated community faces when disposing of the waste properly. On its website, the EPA says it proposed the reinterpretation “to address these concerns and to further protect public health and the environment.”

PCBs were manufactured from the late 1920s until 1979 when the manufacture of the product was banned by the TSCA. Caulk and other PCB containing products like paint and sealants were used in many buildings in the 1950s through the 1970s. In general, the EPA says schools and buildings built after 1978 do not contain PCBs in caulk or other products. The agency says that while building owners can look through historical records to help determine if PCB-manufactured products were used in the building, sampling is the only way to be certain if a building has PCB contamination.

Further resources on PCB removal can be found at www.epa.gov/pcbsincaulk/reinterpret.htm.