Alewife Study Group > asbestos > 1999, Cambridge ordinance and existing legislation Search 

Relation of the Asbestos Ordinance to other existing legislation

The state laws, based on federal, regarding asbestos *in buildings* are immense. 453 CMR 6.00 is about 60 pages without the extensive appendix clearly describing how to train every type of personnel who may be involved in remediation. Completely sealing off the work area, air-tight except for HEPA filters, held at negative pressure, wetting down the material, and sealing off the waste are all part of the requirements. All personnel must be trained.

Laws on asbestos in soil are fewer and vague. One pound of asbestos or a 1% concentration in a sample trigger state involvement. Once that is triggered, as Sam Lipson said at the ordinance hearing on August 25, 1999:

"The state has an interesting relationship with asbestos in soil. On the one hand they have no tolerance; any amount found required that they respond in some way that it be dealt with in the Massachusetts Contingency Plan. In other words, there is no allowable level, right now, of asbestos in soil."

and later:

"I agree with the goal here of trying to give further protection to people living in the cities where it is felt that it is not sufficiently covered by the state law. My personal view is there are gaps in the state law; there are gaps in what is actually required. When you rely on guidelines rather than on actual regulation, it is possible to get around this. Those guidelines aren't binding, and I think that that's inappropriate. I think that there should be binding requirements, minimum performance standards for anyone who owns property where asbestos is found."

[read the more complete text from the hearing]

Unfortunately, the DEP has privatized the remediation processes, so a private consultant hired by the property owner generally gets final say on how to interpret the vague guidelines.

This ordinance attempts to seal up the gaps.

Contact the Alewife Study Group, North Cambridge Massachusetts, by email at