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Many buildings still have asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) hidden in them. The GVSS (Federal association of remediation professionals) estimates that around one quarter of all buildings built before 1995 contain ACMs, for example putty and tile adhesive. These products must be completely removed before any new work can be carried out on the buildings. Mechanical processes, such as grinding or milling, are normally deployed to do this.
Specialising in hazardous substances remediation and with years of experience of handling asbestos, BUCHEN Umweltservice has been looking at establishing an alternative asbestos abatement method: using partly – or even fully – automated high pressure water jetting to detach the ACMs and then shadow vacuuming to remove the wastewater generated by the process. This pioneering technique is currently being trialled and further developed in an empty residential building – and the results have been impressive so far.
Around one quarter of all buildings built before 1995 are thought to contain ACMs, for example putty and tile adhesive.
High pressure water jetting technology is the method of choice in a whole range of different areas. It also offers some advantages that would be useful in the field of asbestos abatement. The use of water, for example, curtails the release of airborne fibres, preventing both potential health risks and contamination of the immediate environment. This technology also reduces the physical strain on operatives as they do not have to use vibrating mechanical equipment. This is particularly beneficial when large areas of asbestos have to be removed. What’s more, it means the project can be completed more quickly as enclosures no longer need to be set up.
All good reasons, therefore, for BUCHEN to carry out a series of pilot tests. And this is precisely what it is doing. The company is currently testing high pressure water jetting as a means to remove different types of asbestos-containing building materials inside a 2,500m² block of flats. Taking the highest possible environmental and health protective measures into account, these tests are focusing on the removal of wall and ceiling coverings as well as asbestos-containing mineral flooring adhesives. A variety of high pressure water jetting systems are being trialled here to see just how suitable they are as a means to remove the different kinds of ACMs. Throughout all these processes, measurements are being taken, verified and certified by experts. The accredited inspection body here is UCL Umwelt Control Labor, which is also a REMONDIS Group company.
The results of these trials have confirmed that high pressure water jetting reduces the release of airborne fibres and is suitable for asbestos abatement work carried out inside buildings. According to the current regulations, this form of asbestos removal can be categorised as an activity with a low level of exposure and with a low level of risk. BUCHEN is now looking to further develop this system and then take the necessary steps so that the IFA (Institute for Occupational Safety) can confirm it to be a low-emission procedure in line with Point 2.9 of the TRGS 519 (Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances).
To begin with, BUCHEN will only be using this method in indoor areas. Over the medium term, however, it is planning to deploy it as a means to remove materials from outside walls as well, such as asbestos-containing rendering and paint. It is also carrying out tests to see whether this technology can be used to remove a combination of hazardous substances such as asbestos and PCB.