Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division
Russell W. Hinton, State Auditor
Performance Audit Operations Division 254 Washington St., SW
Department of Audits and Accounts
Atlanta, GA 30334
As specified in the Asbestos Safety Act, the Asbestos Program is responsible for protect[ing] the public health, safety, and environment by ensuring that asbestos-containing materials are removed from facilities and residential dwellings in the safest manner possible. The Program licenses asbestos contractors, requires asbestos supervisors to obtain annual training, and conducts on-site inspections of asbestos abatement projects and demolition projects.
The responsibility for regulating asbestos abatement and encapsulation was delegated to the state by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the 1980's. In taking on this responsibility, the state enacted the Asbestos Safety Act in 1986 which established an Asbestos Licensing Board responsible for licensing asbestos contractors and certifying asbestos foremen. A 1996 amendment to the Asbestos Safety Act abolished the Asbestos Licensing Board and made the Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Protection Division (EPD) responsible for asbestos regulation. Under the 1996 amendment, contractors are still required to be licensed; asbestos supervisors (foremen) are not required to be certified but are required to meet specific training requirements established by EPD.
In addition to the Asbestos Safety Act, the Program also enforces provisions of EPD's Air Quality regulations and Solid Waste Management regulations. Under the Air Quality regulations, demolition contractors are required to notify the Program at least 10 calendar days prior to starting any demolition project. Under the Solid Waste regulations, the Program is responsible for ensuring that asbestos-containing materials are transported in vehicles that prevent spillage and are disposed of in permitted landfills or other facilities approved by EPD.
Exposure to asbestos fibers can result in malignant mesothelioma (an incurable type of cancer) and asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs that can lead to respiratory failure and heart failure). According to EPD, improper renovation and demolition of asbestos-containing structures is one of the primary causes of exposure for both building occupants and construction workers.
The Program is administered by the Lead-Based Paint and Asbestos Unit within the Land Protection Branch of EPD. The responsibility for the Asbestos Program was transferred from the Air Protection Branch to the Land Protection Branch in 1995. The primary duties of the LeadBased Paint Program are to certify lead-based paint contractors, accredit lead-based paint train-
ing providers, enforce work standards for lead-based painting, and investigate complaints involving lead-based paint. Each of the 12 personnel positions within the Unit has duties involving both the Asbestos Program and the Lead-Based Paint Program. This performance audit, however, only addressed the Asbestos Program.
The Asbestos Safety Act specifies that all contractors must obtain a license prior to engaging in the removal or encapsulation of friable [easily crumbled] asbestos-containing materials from any facility or residential dwelling... Licensed electrical contractors, conditioned air contractors, low-voltage contractors, utility contractors, and plumbers are exempt from the licensing requirement when the project involves less than 10 continuous linear feet or 10 square feet of asbestoscontaining material.
To obtain a license, contractors must meet the following requirements (as outlined in EPD regulations):
complete a 32-hour training course (approved by EPD) in the removal and abatement of asbestos and pass an examination with a score of 70% or better;
demonstrate reliability in the performance of general contracting activities;
have successfully completed or supervised three previous asbestos abatement projects;
have standard operating procedures covering employee respiratory protection, overall work practices, worker and public protection practices, and bulk and air sampling for asbestos abatement activities; and,
demonstrate competence in the performance of asbestos abatement activities by submitting: a description of and the reasons for any abatement project that was terminated prior to completion; a list of any contractual penalties paid in conjunction with abatement activities; information regarding any citations levied by a governmental agency for violations related to asbestos abatement; a description of all legal proceedings, lawsuits, or claims for asbestosrelated activities; a description of the training process for employees in the hazards and procedures of asbestos abatement activities; and the availability of appropriate protective equipment.
The license costs $100 and is valid for three years. Licenses may be renewed for an additional three-year period by submitting proof of having completed an annual training course of at least eight hours and paying a $100 renewal fee.
Persons licensed as asbestos abatement contractors in other states may obtain a Georgia license through reciprocity. As specified in the Asbestos Safety Act, licensure through reciprocity is only permitted if the other state's licensure requirements are not less than Georgia's require-
ments and the other state extends reciprocity to Georgia-licensed contractors.
Persons employed as supervisors on asbestos-related projects are required to complete the same training required of asbestos contractors. As defined by the Asbestos Safety Act, supervisors include any person who is employed or engaged by a contractor to supervise the removal, encapsulation, cleaning, or disposal of friable asbestos-containing materials. Supervisors are not licensed and are not required to submit any documentation of their training to the Program. The contractors who employ them are responsible for ensuring that they have completed the required training.
Project Notification and Completion Reports
The Asbestos Safety Act requires contractors to notify the Program in writing at least seven calendar days prior to beginning a project involving the removal or encapsulation of friable asbestos-containing material from any facility or residential dwelling. Federal regulations that have been formally adopted by EPD require prior notification to be submitted by abatement contractors and demolition contractors at least 10 working days prior to starting any asbestos abatement work or demolishing any building or other structure. To avoid confusion between the Act and the regulations, the Program requires all contractors to file written notification at least 10 working days prior to beginning a project. The purpose of requiring the project notifications is to enable the Program to conduct on-site inspections of the project sites.
The project notification form that must be filed with the Program indicates the location of the project, the scheduled start date and estimated completion date, the estimated amount of asbestos to be removed, and the methods that will be used for removing and disposing of the asbestoscontaining materials. Contractors are also required to indicate the name and certification number of the inspector who inspected the facility for the presence of asbestos (inspectors are accredited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
State law requires asbestos contractors to submit a fee with their project notifications based on the estimated amount of asbestos that will be removed: $0.10 per square foot (or linear foot) of friable asbestos-containing material, with a minimum fee of $25 and a maximum fee of $1,000 per project. For residential projects and small projects (less than 160 square feet or 260 linear feet of friable asbestos-containing materials) the maximum fee amount is $50. Demolition contractors are not required to submit a fee with their project notifications.
At the conclusion of each project, abatement contractors are required to submit a project completion report to the Program. The report is submitted to certify that the project was conducted in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations.
Inspectors and Inspections
The Program has five inspectors who are responsible for inspecting demolition projects and asbestos-abatement projects and for investigating complaints in 134 of the state's 159 counties. Each inspector has an assigned territory ranging from 6 to 46 counties. The two inspectors assigned to EPD's Coastal District are responsible for conducting inspections in the 25 counties in the southeastern part of the state. It should be noted that these two inspectors are part of EPD's
Program Coordination Branch; they are not part of or supervised by the Asbestos Program. In addition to conducting asbestos inspections, the two inspectors also perform other duties related to the Program Coordination Branch. The functions of the Program Coordination Branch include: emergency response (to spills/releases of oil or other hazardous materials), environmental radiation, environmental toxicology, laboratory operations, outreach and education, quality assurance, radioactive materials, small business assistance, training, and the environmental management districts. The inspectors' territories are shown in Exhibit 1.
Northwest Region (includes 1/2 of Fulton County)
Central Region (includes 1/2 of Fulton and DeKalb Counties)
Northeast Region (includes 1/2 of DeKalb County)
Asbestos abatement projects are inspected to ensure that any asbestos-containing materials are encapsulated, removed, and disposed of in accordance with state regulations; demolition projects are inspected to ensure that any friable asbestos-containing materials were removed from the structure as required. Both types of inspections are generally unannounced.
If a routine inspection or complaint investigation identifies a violation of the Program's regulations, the Program may take enforcement action based on the severity of the infraction. For minor violations, such as failure to notify the Program of a change in the project start date, the Pro-
gram may issue a Notice of Deficiency, which (per Program personnel) is basically just a warning. For more serious violations, such as failure to comply with applicable regulations in the disposal of asbestos-containing materials, the Program may issue a Notice of Violation or a ceaseand-desist order. State law specifies that civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day may be imposed pursuant to a hearing by an administrative law judge. Any decision rendered by the administrative law judge may be appealed to the Superior Court. The Program may also take steps to suspend or revoke a contractor's license.
As an alternative to holding a formal hearing before an administrative law judge, Program personnel may meet with the person or firm involved (the respondent) to determine if the issue can be resolved in a less formal manner. Through this process, a consent order is issued specifying the type of disciplinary action that has been agreed to by both the respondent and Program officials. The respondent, for example, may be required to attend additional training courses or to pay a financial penalty. In cases in which it is determined that a project presents an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health, the Asbestos Safety Act authorizes EPD to seek a restraining order from the courts. If this is deemed impractical, EPD may issue such an order valid for up to 48 hours.
During fiscal year 2002, the Program issued 50 licenses: 22 initial licenses and 26 renewal licenses (files could not be located to verify if the other two licenses that were issued were initial licenses or renewal licenses). As of April, 2003 there were 237 licensees. The Program received approximately 2,600 project notifications during fiscal year 2002 and 121 complaints. During the fiscal year, Program personnel issued 77 Notices of Deficiency and 57 Notices of Violation. The Program also executed 39 consent orders and assessed $54,750 in monetary penalties (including cases in which the respondents could avoid paying the monetary penalty by meeting other requirements, such as attending training courses).
The Asbestos Program is part of the Lead-Based Paint and Asbestos Unit and does not have its own operating budget. As shown by Exhibit 2 on the following page, the Unit expended $1.05 million in fiscal year 2002 and is budgeted to expend $825,000 in fiscal year 2003. In fiscal year 2002, the Program reported collecting a total of $412,654 in license fees and project notification fees; of this amount, $5,000 was from license fees (based on the number of licenses issued and renewed during the year) and $407,654 was from project notification fees. All of the revenue collected by the Program is remitted for deposit in the State Treasury.
Exhibit 2 LEAD-BASED PAINT AND ASBESTOS UNIT
FUND SOURCES AND EXPENDITURES FISCAL YEARS 2002 AND 2003
FUND SOURCES State 1
Solid Waste Trust Fund 3
GUST Trust Fund 4
Regular Operating Expenses
Motor Vehicle Purchases
Real Estate Rentals
Per Diem and Fees Contracts 5
1State funds for the Asbestos Program that provides for two positions. 2 Federal funding for fiscal year 2002 included a one-time Lead-Based Paint grant from the U.S. Depart-
ment of Housing and Urban Development and carryover funds from the prior year's EPA Lead-Based
Paint grant. 3 Interest from the Solid Waste Trust Fund is used to fund two inspector positions. 4 Interest from the Georgia Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund is used to fund one inspector position. 5Carryover money from the EPA Lead-Based Paint grant used for database improvement.
Source: Budget Comparison Reports and Program Records
Audit Objectives, Scope, and Methodology
The primary purpose of this audit was to determine if the regulatory activities of the Asbestos Program are effective in protecting public health and safety and the environment. The specific audit questions that were addressed as part of this audit include the following:
What percentage of asbestos abatement projects and demolition projects are actually inspected by the Program each year?
Are asbestos abatement projects and demolition projects being reported to the Program as required (thereby making them subject to inspection by Program personnel)?
Has the Program established procedures to ensure that inspections are conducted in a thorough and uniform manner throughout the state?
Are complaints thoroughly investigated and followed up on by Program personnel?
Does the Program license only those applicants who meet all of the statutory conditions for obtaining a license?
Does the Program ensure that all of its enforcement actions are fully documented?
The audit was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards for performance audits and focused on fiscal year 2002. The audit methodology included interviews with Program personnel and reviews of Program files and records, including computer files. The audit team also followed up on those issues cited in the 1991 performance audit of the Asbestos Licensing Board that were applicable to the current Asbestos Program. The audit of the Licensing Board was released in September 1991 and was conducted pursuant to the state's Sunset Act that provided for the Review, Continuation, Reestablishment, or Termination of Regulatory Agencies. The requirement to conduct routine audits of the regulatory agencies was repealed in 1992.
Members of the audit team observed an on-site inspection and attended an Asbestos Awareness Seminar held by Program officials. Telephone interviews were conducted with asbestos regulatory personnel in the seven other states in EPA's Region IV (which includes Georgia). The other seven states contacted as part of the audit include: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
This report has been discussed with appropriate personnel representing the Environmental Protection Division of DNR. A draft copy was provided for their review and comment; pertinent responses have been included in the report as appropriate.
Recommendations and Agency Responses
Summary Recommendation Action should be taken by the Program to improve its overall effectiveness in fulfilling its statutory mandate to ensure the removal or encapsulation of friable asbestoscontaining materials from facilities and residential dwellings in the safest manner possible. Our review found that, as it currently functions, the Program cannot provide reasonable assurance that demolition projects and asbestos abatement projects are being conducted in the safest manner possible. Specific areas in which improvements are needed are highlighted below and are addressed in more detail in the remainder of this report.
The Program's primary means of regulating
the removal and encapsulation of asbestos-
The Program is con- als is by conduct-
ducting complete inspections of only
ing on-site inspec-
about 24% of the tions. Based on our
projects for which it review of inspec-
receives notifica- tion reports, how-
ever, it is estimated
that the Program is
conducting complete inspections (i.e., with
contractors on-site during the inspection) of
only about 24% of the projects for which it
receives notifications. Although some ar-
eas can be addressed if no one is present at
the project site, a complete inspection can-
not be conducted. The Program's unwrit-
ten guideline is to inspect 50% of the pro-
Our review also raised questions regarding the extent to which the Program is being informed of all of the demolition and abatement projects. In fiscal year 2002, the Program did not receive project notifications from any demolition contractors in 88 Georgia counties. Although the population
of these counties totals only about 1.5 million (or 18% of the state's total population), it is unlikely that not a single building was demolished in these 88 counties during the year. Our review also found that no project notifications were received from abatement contractors in 67 counties in fiscal year 2002.
The Program needs to take steps to ensure that on-site inspections are conducted in a thorough, uniform manner by all of the inspectors. Currently, the inspectors are not required to complete any type of inspection checklist or to have the inspection reports signed by the contractor or the contractor's on-site representative.
The Program should develop formal guidelines for ensuring that priority is given to inspecting those project sites that pose the greatest risk to public health. Our review found a lack of consensus among the inspectors regarding the types of sites that should receive the greatest attention.
By taking steps to address each of the preceding areas, the Program could improve its overall effectiveness in protecting public health by regulating the removal and encapsulation of asbestos-containing materials. These and other areas in which improvements are needed are discussed in the remainder of this report.
In its written response to this audit report, EPD indicated that it generally agreed with the recommendations in the report. EPD also indicated, however, that the report did not acknowledge the accomplishments that have occurred since significant management changes were implemented in 1998. EPD noted that during the past five years, the Program has increased annual revenues to over $400,000 and has improved: compliance with the project notification requirement, the project inspection rate, the level of understanding of the laws and
rules among the regulated community, and the competence and responsiveness of the Program staff. EPD noted that its goal was to continue improvement of the Asbestos Program while minimizing the economic and bureaucratic burden on the regulated community.
Recommendation No. 2 The Program should develop specific quantifiable objectives for measuring its effectiveness. Currently, the Program does not have any formal standards for evaluating its effectiveness in regulating the removal and encapsulation of asbestos-containing materials. The only performance measures the Program has established are informal guidelines for measuring efficiency (such as investigating complaints within 10 business days of receipt).
In developing its performance objectives, the Program should focus on its overall mission of protecting public health. For example, the Program could establish an objective regarding the percentage of job sites that are inspected and found to be in compliance with applicable safety regulations (the higher the percentage, the greater the level of public protection). By developing performance standards that focus on its overall purpose, the Program would be better able to identify areas in which improvements were needed and take corrective action in a more timely manner.
In its written response, EPD indicated its agreement that the Program needed to develop specific quantifiable objectives for measuring its effectiveness.
Inspectors and Inspections
Recommendation No. 1 The Program needs to revise its inspection procedures to make more effective use of
its inspection personnel. Currently, the Program conducts unannounced inspections based on project notifications that are submitted weeks or months prior to the project's estimated start date. There is no assurance, however, that the project will be underway or that anyone will be at the project site at the time of the inspector's visit. If the contractor is not present at the time of the inspection, the inspector may not be able to access the job site and will not be able to verify such items as the supervisor's training. A 1987 report prepared by the U.S. EPA indicated that only an inspection during actual removal can attest to no visible emissions, adequate wetting, and proper waste disposal (source: 1991 performance audit of the Asbestos Licensing Board).
Our review found that Program inspectors are unable to conduct a complete inspection at about 55% of the project sites they visit. Not only is this a waste of the inspectors' time, it significantly reduces the number of projects that are actually inspected. Based on our review of inspection reports, it is estimated that only about 24% of the 1,668 abatement and demolition projects reported to the Program in fiscal year 2002 were actually inspected. (These calculations exclude project notifications received for projects in the 25-county area served by the Coastal District since the inspection data does not include inspections conducted by the Coastal District.)
Analysis of 437 inspection reports filed by the Program's inspectors in fiscal year 2002 found that they had been able to conduct a complete inspection at only 196 (45%) of the project sites they visited. Of the remaining 241 project sites, the inspectors had driven to the job site but were unable to conduct an inspection because: the project had not yet started-85 cases; the contractor was not at the project site (with the result that the inspector could not observe the project underway and
could not verify that the supervisor had the required training)-77 cases; the project was already completed-73 cases; and, the inspector could not locate or gain access to the project site- 6 cases.
Using the 45% inspection rate identified in our review of 437 inspection reports, it is estimated that the Program conducted a total of 404 complete inspections during fiscal year 2002 (897 total inspections reported X 45%). This estimate indicates that only about 24% of the total projects reported to the Program during the year were subject to a complete inspection (404 complete inspections / 1,668 project notifications).
Reviews of the inspectors' monthly reports found that time spent on non-productive trips to project job sites accounted for much of the inspectors' work hours. Cases were noted in which the inspectors drove to the same job site two or three times without completing an inspection. In one case, for example, an inspector drove to a job site on September 25 and found the project had not yet started, drove back to the site on November 7 and again found the project had not yet started, and then drove to the job site on November 20 and found the structure had been demolished. The total amount of time spent on these non-productive activities could not be determined, however, because the inspectors are not required to record their travel time or the time spent on-site conducting inspections (see Recommendation No. 6 on page 14).
To illustrate the extent to which an inspector's time may be spent on non-productive activities, Exhibit 3 shows the inspection
activity of one inspector during the period January-June 2002. It should be noted that activities related to complaint investigations and activities involving the LeadBased Paint Program are not included in the Exhibit.
As indicated by the Exhibit, the inspector traveled to 27 project sites during the sixmonth period to conduct routine and follow-up inspections. Actual inspections, however, were only conducted at nine (33%) of the 27 project sites that were visited.
As noted in the 1991 performance audit of the Asbestos Licensing Board, the Program should take action to increase the number of job sites that are fully inspected. The process could be improved by revising and enforcing the current notification requirement (as discussed in Recommendation No. 7 on page 15). By fining firms for failing to file project notifications in a timely manner or for failing to update the project notifications as changes occur, the Program could increase the likelihood that the projects are actually underway when the inspectors arrive at the job site.
Another option that should be considered would be to contact a number of contractors every Monday morning (via telephone or email) and confirm the location of the projects they will be working on during the week. The element of surprise would be maintained because the contractors would not know which (if any) of the sites would actually be inspected. Another alternative would be to require contractors to file project notifications by e-mail on a weekly basis.
The Program should also consider conducting at least some announced inspections. Although this would eliminate the element of surprise, it would enable Program personnel to verify that the contractor knew how to do the job properly (at least when being observed).
Exhibit 3 SAMPLE OF ONE INSPECTOR'S ACTIVITIES (JANUARY 2002-JUNE2002)
Date January 18 January 24 January 30 January 31 February 12 February 12 March 7 March 7 March 7 March 21 March 21 April 4
Location Dublin Dublin Swainsboro Dublin Milledgeville Soperton Cochran Cochran Macon Madison Macon Milledgeville
Inspection Actually Conducted No-Contractor Not On Site No-Contractor Not On Site Yes Yes No-Contractor Not On Site No-Contractor Not On Site No-Contractor Not On Site No-Contractor Not On Site Yes No-Project Not Yet Started Yes Yes
Source: Inspection reports
Yes No-Project Already Completed Yes No-Project Already Completed Yes No-Contractor Not On Site No-Contractor Not On Site Yes No-Project Not Yet Started No-Contractor Not On Site No-Project Completed (Facility Demolished) No-Project Completed No-Contractor Not On Site No-Contractor Not On Site No-Project Completed (Facility Demolished)
In its written response, EPD noted that there are multiple deficiencies an inspector can detect, curtail, or cite even if the project is not in progress at the time of the inspection. EPD also indicated, however, that the Program would begin scheduling announced inspections to evaluate improvements in inspector effectiveness.
Recommendation No. 2 The Program should take action to ensure that priority is given to those projects that pose the greatest risk to public health. Currently, only about 24% of the project sites are inspected each year. No guidelines have been established, however, to ensure that priority is given to those projects that, if not properly conducted, could have the greatest impact on public health. Interviews with Program personnel and with personnel in the Coastal District (responsible for asbestosrelated inspections in southeast Georgia) found an overall lack of consensus regarding inspection priority. While Program management personnel indicated that asbestos abatement projects receive higher inspection priority, management personnel in the Coastal District indicated that inspectors try to focus their inspection priority on ... demolition projects.
Differences were also noted among individual Program inspectors regarding the priority they placed on different types of projects. One inspector, for example, indicated that he prioritized projects based on the type of facility, with schools, hospitals, and churches given top priority. Another inspector indicated that he targeted his inspections on projects conducted by contractors who had been repeatedly cited for violations and on new contractors. A third inspector indicated that he prioritized his inspections based on the size of the project and on if he had previously found problems with the contractor's work.
The Program should develop formal guidelines for determining which projects are given
priority by the inspectors. Implementation of this recommendation would serve to ensure that the Program's inspectors uniformly focus their inspection activities on those projects that could potentially have the greatest impact on public health.
In its written response, EPD indicated that an inspection prioritization system is being developed as a result of new database software. Written guidance and inspector training will precede implementation to assure greater uniformity and understanding among inspectors.
Recommendation No. 3 Action should be taken to clarify the state's requirements governing the reporting of asbestos abatement projects and demolition projects. Currently, the reporting requirements governing asbestos abatement contractors and demolition contractors are not clearly addressed in either state law or EPD regulations (which include applicable federal regulations that were adopted by reference). In addition to causing difficulties for Program officials, the lack of clarity may hinder contractors' compliance with the reporting requirements.
State law that established the Asbestos Program does not address demolition contractors or specify that they file project notifications with the Program. The notification requirement governing demolition contractors is only addressed in federal regulations which have been adopted by EPD as part of its regulations.
The Program currently requires all demolition contractors to complete the same notification form, regardless of the amount of asbestos-containing material contained in the structure to be demolished. The federal regulations adopted by EPD, however, specify different notification requirements depending on the
amount of asbestos-containing material.
As currently worded, state law requires contractors to submit a project notification to the Program regardless of the amount of asbestos-containing material involved. The Program's regulations, however, specify that contractors do not have to submit a project notification if the project involves less than 10 linear feet or 10 square feet of asbestos-containing material. Federal regulations (that have been adopted by EPD) specify that project notification is only required if the project involves more than 260 linear feet or 160 square feet of asbestos-containing material.
The Program allows contractors to file blanket notifications for small projects that will be conducted throughout the year. While blanket notifications are allowed per federal regulations adopted by EPD, they are not addressed in state law. It should also be noted that project sites covered by blanket notifications are generally not inspected. In fiscal year 2002, the Program received 38 blanket notifications.
Under state law asbestos abatement contractors are required to file project notifications with the Program at least seven calendar days prior to starting the project. Federal regulations adopted by EPD require contractors to file project notifications at least 10 working days prior to the start of a project. The Program enforces the 10-day requirement.
The reporting requirements regarding abatement projects and demolition projects should be clarified in both state law and EPD regulations. As discussed in the following Recommendation, specific action should be taken to increase contractors' awareness of the notification requirement.
EPD has indicated its agreement with the need for additional clarification of the reporting requirements.
Recommendation No. 4
Additional action should be taken by EPD
to promote contractors' awareness of and
compliance with the project notification
Currently, there is no assurance that contac-
tors (especially demolition contractors) are
submitting project notifications as re-
There is no assurance that contactors
quired. A review of (especially demolition
the number of pro- contractors) are sub-
ject notifications mitting project notifi-
filed for each county cations as required.
in fiscal year 2002
indicated that there may be a lack of compli-
ance with the reporting requirement, espe-
cially in the state's rural counties.
Although demolition contractors are required to notify the Program prior to demolishing any building or structure, there is no control mechanism for ensuring that they are aware of or comply with this requirement. Unlike asbestos abatement contractors who must be licensed by the Program and meet certain requirements as a condition of licensure, anyone with a bulldozer may contract to demolish a building. As noted by a Program official, thousands of [demolition contractors] go to local permit offices and no one tells them to file a notification with the Asbestos Unit.
Our review of the 882 project notifications filed by demolition contractors in fiscal year 2002 also raised questions regarding the extent to which demolition contractors are complying with the notification requirement. No project notifications were received from demolition contractors in 88 of the state's 159 counties. Although these 88 counties constitute only 18% of the state's population, it is
unlikely that not a single building was demolished during the year in any of these counties.
Our review of 1,080 asbestos abatement notifications filed in fiscal year 2002 also indicates that some contractors may not be notifying the Program as required. No asbestos abatement notifications were received from contractors in 67 counties. The number of asbestos abatement notifications filed by counties with similar populations also raises questions regarding compliance with the reporting requirement. Of the state's eight counties with a population between 90,000 and 100,000, for example, the number of asbestos notifications filed during the year ranges from none in Fayette County to 17 in Dougherty County. Of the five counties with a population between 60,000 and 70,000, the number of asbestos notifications filed during the year ranges from one in Walton County to 24 in Glynn County.
EPD should continue its efforts to have city and county permit officials inform demolition contractors of the requirement to file project notifications with the Program prior to starting any demolition project. Consideration should also be given to working with city and county permit officials to revise their permit application form to require demolition contractors to document that they have filed the required notification with EPD. Action should also be taken to follow up in those counties for which the Program did not receive any project notifications for asbestos abatement projects.
In its response, EPD indicated that it will work with city and county officials to revise their building-permit application forms. It was also indicated that these efforts would be focused in those counties from which the Program did not receive any project notifications.
Recommendation No. 5 Steps should be taken by EPD to ensure that project sites are inspected in a uniform manner by all inspectors throughout the state. Currently, inspectors are not required to utilize or complete any type of checklist to indicate what should be looked at and reviewed during an inspection. Although an inspection report is prepared for each inspection, the report may not be prepared until days after the inspection.
Implementing some type of checklist could serve to ensure that inspections are conducted in a uniform manner by the Program's inspectors as well as by the inspectors assigned to EPD's Coastal District. The two inspectors in the Coastal District are not part of or supervised by the Asbestos Program.
EPD indicated in its written response that steps would be taken to improve the uniformity of inspections.
Recommendation No. 6 The Program should implement procedures for more carefully monitoring its inspectors' work activities. Although the Program's inspectors are required to prepare an inspection report for each inspection they conduct, the reports do not include sufficient information for monitoring their activities. The reports do not indicate the amount of time spent traveling to and from the project site or the amount of time spent conducting the actual inspection. The inspection reports are not prepared at the time of the inspections and do not include the signature of the contractor or the project supervisor (one of whom is required to be at the job site).
The Program should require its inspectors to note the amount of time spent traveling to the project sites and the amount of time spent at each site. The inspectors should also be required to obtain the signature of the contrac-
tor or project supervisor on the inspection form. As noted in the 1991 performance audit of the Asbestos Licensing Board, requiring the inspection reports to be signed by a contractor or project supervisor would provide an additional means of verifying that the inspection was actually conducted.
In its response, EPD indicated its agreement with the need to more carefully monitor its inspectors' work activities. EPD indicated that the inspection form would be changed to detail the time of inspection and that consideration would be given to completing the inspection form in the field.
Recommendation No. 7
Action should be taken to require contrac-
tors to file project notification reports in a
more timely manner.
Under current policy, contractors are required
to notify the Program at least 10 working
days prior to starting an asbestos abatement
Of 1,767 project notifications, 531 (30%) had not been filed at least 10 days prior to the scheduled start date of the project.
project or demolition project. A review of 1,767 project notifications filed in fiscal year 2002, however, found that 531
(30%) had not been filed at least 10 days
prior to the scheduled start date of the project,
including 155 that had been filed after the
start date. Of the remaining 376 notifications
filed on or prior to the start date, 115 had
been filed less than five days prior to the start
date. If the project notifications are not filed
with the Program in a timely manner, the pro-
jects may not be scheduled for inspection.
Our review of the project notifications also found that 123 (7%) of the notifications were filed more than 45 days prior to the estimated start date. It is questionable if a contractor can accurately estimate a project's start date more than 45 days in advance. Notifications filed substantially prior to the estimated start day may result in an inspector traveling to a
project site only to discover that the project has not yet started.
The Program should consider imposing some type of administrative fine on contractors who fail to file the project notifications in a timely manner or who fail to notify the Program as changes occur in the project's start or stop date. One alternative would be to fine contractors an amount equal to the cost of having an inspector travel to and from the project site if an inspection cannot be conducted because the contractor failed to notify the Program of a change in the start or stop date. It should be noted that this issue was addressed in the 1991 performance audit of the Asbestos Licensing Board.
Consideration should also be given to limiting the maximum number of days prior to a project's estimated start date that a project notification form could be submitted. Implementation of this recommendation could serve to reduce the number of inspections that cannot be conducted because the project was not underway at the time of the inspector's visit.
EPD has indicated its agreement that the Program should impose monetary penalties (through its negotiated enforcement process) for prompting contractors to be more timely in filing project notifications. EPD also indicated that consideration would be given to a regulatory revision regarding the maximum number of days a notification could be filed prior to the anticipated start date of a project.
Recommendation No. 8 The Program should reevaluate the need for contractors to file completion reports at the conclusion of abatement projects. Although state law requires the submission of project completion reports, the Program does not use the reports for any purpose. In addition, the Program does not attempt to match the completion reports it receives with the project notification forms (to determine if a
completion report was not submitted). For fiscal year 2002, the Program reported receiving 1,422 project completion reports. This issue was also addressed in the 1991 performance audit of the Asbestos Licensing Board.
EPD indicated in its written response that steps would be initiated to have state law amended to delete the requirement that contractors file project completion reports.
Recommendation No. 9
The Environmental Protection Division
should be commended for its efforts to up-
grade the Program's computer applica-
Currently, the Program's inspectors are re-
quired to enter the same inspection informa-
tion into two databases: the Program's data-
The new computer software will eliminate the need for Program inspectors to enter the same information twice.
base used to keep track of inspections and a federal database used to report project notifications and inspections to the U.S. EPA. The
new computer pro-
gram currently being developed by EPD will
allow the data to be transferred from one da-
tabase to another and eliminate the need for
the inspectors to enter the same information
twice. The new computer software will also
allow contractors to file their project notifica-
tions via the Internet. The new software was
not yet fully operational at the time of this
Recommendation No. 1 Action should be taken to ensure that complete documentation is maintained for verifying that complaints are thoroughly investigated and resolved in a timely manner. Using EPD's automated complaint tracking system, the audit team reviewed all of the 121 complaints that, per the system, had been re-
ceived by the Program in fiscal year 2002. The tracking system indicated that 80 (66%) of the 121 complaints had not been resolved as of August 14, 2002 (six weeks following the close of the fiscal year). Sixty-eight (85%) of the 80 complaints had been unresolved for at least three months prior to the date of our review.
In response to one of the complaints, for example, a Program inspector took photographs and collected samples of the asbestos-containing materials two days after the complaint was received. The complaint records do not provide any additional information regarding the results of any analysis of the samples that was conducted or of any subsequent action taken by the Program.
In response to another complaint regarding a building being demolished, the inspector indicated that ... no structures visible [at the site], will call general contractor to investigate if demolition took place. No additional information was provided however regarding the results of the telephone call or any other action.
Program management should periodically review the complaint tracking system to monitor the status of all outstanding complaints. Implementation of this recommendation would serve to ensure that complaints are fully investigated and resolved in a more timely manner.
In its response, EPD indicated that Program management will periodically check the status of outstanding complaints to ensure than inspector follow-up has been accomplished.
Recommendation No. 1 Action should be taken to develop a formal policy governing the types of alternative penalties that may be levied against respondents as a result of a consent order. Currently, the Program may resolve an enforcement action by issuing a consent order in which the respondent is given the option of spending money for some type of environmental project or activity in lieu of paying a financial penalty. No formal guidelines have been established, however, regarding the types of projects or activities that would be acceptable or the relationship that must exist between the violation and the proposed remedy. As noted in a 1995 Unofficial Attorney General's Opinion, there must be a distinct relationship... between the [violation] and the remedial action [EPD] orders the violator to implement.
In fiscal year 2002, the Program resolved 28 enforcement actions through consent orders in which the respondents were assessed some type of financial penalty. In four of the 28 cases, the respondents were given the option of paying a fine or paying the same amount to a printing company for the cost of some educational brochures. The respondents were demolition contractors who had failed to file the required notification; the brochures that were printed were used to inform demolition contractors of the reporting requirements.
In another case, however, a contractor who violated several provisions of the Asbestos laws and rules was allowed to avoid paying a fine in return for giving the Program several pieces of equipment, including a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum cleaner. When questioned about this case, Program personnel acknowledged that it was a mistake that would not be repeated. Establishing formal guidelines regarding alternative penalties would serve to ensure that such
mistakes do not happen in the future.
Recommendation No. 2 Documentation should be maintained to verify that contractors and other persons (respondents) comply with the terms of the consent orders issued by the Program. Our review of the 39 consent orders issued in fiscal year 2002 found that documentation was not always on file to verify that the terms of the consent orders had been fully complied with. In 22 cases, the consent orders required the respondents (or their employees) to obtain additional training. Our review of the Program files, however, found that in 10 cases there was no documentation indicating that the training had been completed as required.
The Program should take steps to ensure that respondents fully comply with the terms of their consent orders. During the course of this performance audit, Program personnel indicated that a tracking system was being implemented to enable them to better monitor the status of the consent orders.
In its response, EPD indicated that a tracking system has been implemented to enable the Program's inspectors to better monitor the status of consent orders.
Recommendation No. 1 The Program should revise its licensing procedures to more fully comply with state law. Although no major problems were identified, our review of 50 licenses issued by the Program in fiscal year 2002 identified areas in which procedural changes are needed. These areas are discussed below.
Currently, the Program issues licenses in the name of the contractor's agent instead of the contractor. Program officials have
indicated that this is done because they feel it is easier to hold one person responsible for any violations of the Program's regulations. State law, however, only addresses the licensure of contractors; it does not include the term agent and does not provide for their licensure.
Although Program regulations specify that license applicants must provide evidence of reliability in performance of general contracting activities, the Program has not established any criteria for evaluating applicants' compliance with this requirement. This issue was also addressed in the 1991 performance audit of the Asbestos Licensing Board.
License applicants are not required to submit actual copies of their standard operating procedures (SOPs) for handling asbestos-containing materials. The license application only requires applicants to describe how the SOPs they propose to employ will address six specific items (such as the personal decontamination procedures that will be used). A review of approved applications found that some applicants submitted actual copies of their SOPs while others only provided information regarding the six items listed on the application form. The Program regulations, however, specify that the applications must include information sufficient to demonstrate satisfactory in-use written standard operating procedures...
The Program should not issue any type of roofer license to contractors who do not qualify for an asbestos abatement license. Our review found that in fiscal year 2002, the Program issued a contractor license to a roofing company that did not meet all of the qualifications for licensure. A note was placed on the company's license file for Program staff to inform management
if the company filed a project notification for any non-roofing ACM [asbestoscontaining material] project.
In fiscal year 2002, the Program issued a renewal license to a contractor who had been issued an Asbestos Roofer license in 1999. Not only does the Program not have the statutory authority to issue this type of license but the contractor involved did not meet all of the qualifications to be licensed as an asbestos contractor. Problems involving the licensing of roofing contractors were also cited in the 1991 performance audit of the Asbestos Licensing Board.
The Program should take steps to improve its overall licensure procedures. Licenses should be in the name of the contractor (not an agent), applicants should be required to submit copies of their actual in-use standard operating procedures, and standards should be developed for evaluating applicants' reliability in general contracting. Roofing contractors should not be eligible for licensure unless they meet all of the licensure requirements.
EPD has indicated that it will review its licensing procedures and revise them or propose changes to state law, as appropriate.
Recommendation No. 2 The Program's procedures for reviewing and approving the training courses and examinations required of asbestos contractors and supervisors need improvement. Although the training providers are required to submit their training materials and examinations to the Program for approval, there are no formal standards or procedures for evaluating them. In addition, there are no procedures for periodically reviewing the training providers to verify that they are continuing to use the approved training materials and examinations. The providers are not subject to
on-site visits and are not required to resubmit their training materials or examinations for additional review. This need to reevaluate the training providers was also cited in the 1991 performance audit of the Asbestos Licensing Board.
In its response, EPD indicated its agreement that changes were needed in the standards and evaluation methods of asbestos training courses and examinations and that such changes may require amending state law, EPD rules, and/or current procedures. It was also noted that state law makes no provision for charging a fee for approving training courses and that current state appropriations are inadequate to support these activities.
Recommendation No. 1 EPD should take steps to determine the actual cost of the Asbestos Program, including the cost of reviewing and processing license applications and the cost of conducting the on-site inspections. Currently, EPD does not prepare separate budget or expenditure reports for the Asbestos Program; the cost of operating the Program is included in the cost of the Asbestos and Lead-Based Paint Unit. In addition to not knowing the overall cost of the Program, EPD does not maintain information regarding the cost of licensing abatement contractors or the cost of conducting on-site inspections. As a result, the Program cannot ensure that the license fees offset the cost of issuing the licenses (as required by law) or that the project notification fees are sufficient to offset the cost of conducting on-site inspections. These points are discussed below.
EPD needs to identify the overall cost of the Asbestos Program and ensure that funds from unrelated programs are not being used to offset the cost of operating
the Program. For fiscal year 2002, the Asbestos and Lead-Based Paint Unit expended $1.05 million, including $708,439 in federal EPA funds, $202,665 in state funds, $105,132 in interest from the state's Solid Waste Trust Fund, and $36,696 in interest from the Georgia Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund. Absent accurate cost data, however, there is no assurance that the cost of the Asbestos Program is in line with the amount of state funds and Solid Waste Trust Fund monies received by the Unit. (Using funds from the Solid Waste Trust Fund is justified based on the Program's verification that asbestos-containing materials are only deposited in permitted landfills.)
The Unit's expenditures for fiscal year 2002 include $36,696 in personal services expenses for one employee who transferred to the Unit from another Unit within the Land Protection Branch. The employee's salary and fringe benefits, however, continue to be paid with interest from the Georgia Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund (which is unrelated to both the Asbestos Program and the LeadBased Paint Program).
During the course of this audit, it also came to our attention that one of the persons responsible for asbestos inspections in the Coastal District is also funded with monies from the Georgia Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund. In fiscal year 2002, the personal services expenses for this inspector totaled $36,065. As previously noted, the inspectors in the Coastal District are not part of or supervised by the Asbestos Program.
Because the Division does not separately identify the cost of the Asbestos Program, it does not have information regarding the actual cost of reviewing and processing license applications. State law, however, specifies that the license fees charged by
the Program should reflect the cost of issuing the license.
Georgia's current fee of $100 for a threeyear license is the lowest among the other six states in EPA's Region IV that license asbestos contractors (Tennessee does not license these contractors). Of the other six states: two charge $100 for an annual license; one charges $200 for an annual license; one charges $350 for an annual license; one charges $805 for the initial license
and $305 for license renewal (required biennially); one charges $500 for the initial license and $250 for license renewal (required annually).
Program personnel have indicated that the project notification fees ($0.10 per linear foot or square foot of asbestos-containing materials) were established in 1987 to approximate the cost of inspecting the project sites. Absent any cost data, however, there is no assurance that the revenue generated by the notification fees approximates the inspection costs.
It should be noted that demolition con-
tractors are not required to submit a fee with their project notification forms even though their projects are subject to on-site inspections. State law only authorizes the Program to charge a notification fee to abatement contractors. Demolition contractors are required to submit project notification forms as a result of federal regulations that have been adopted by EPD. These regulations, however, do not provide for any type of notification fee.
Action should be taken by EPD to determine the actual cost of operating the Asbestos Program. In addition to determining the Program's overall cost, EPD should separately determine the cost of processing and issuing licenses and the cost of the on-site inspections. Consideration should also be given to seeking the statutory authority to charge demolition contractors a project notification fee.
In its written response, EPD indicated that it will implement procedures to determine the actual cost of running the Asbestos Program. EPD also indicated that an appropriate business plan will be formulated based on the actual cost of the Program services.
Recommendation No. 1 Consideration should be given to amending the Asbestos Safety Act to provide for the licensure of independent inspectors and to require contractors to submit proof of having liability and property damage insurance as a condition of licensure. Currently, the Program does not have the statutory authority to license inspectors or to require contractors to have any type of insurance. State and federal regulations require that buildings be inspected for the presence of asbestos prior to being demolished or renovated (defined to include stripping or removing asbestos-containing material). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for approving the training courses attended by inspectors but does not maintain a master list of accredited personnel. As a result, the Program cannot verify that a person is a certified inspector even though this information is required to be provided on the Program's project notification form. Four of the other seven states in EPA Region IV (that
includes Georgia) license asbestos inspectors.
Although the asbestos contractors perform work that could endanger public health and the environment if not conducted properly, they are not required to have any type of liability or property damage insurance. At least one of the other seven states (Florida) requires applicants to maintain public liability and property damage insurance during the life of each asbestos job.
Revising the Asbestos Safety Act to require the licensure of inspectors and to require contractors to have a minimum amount of liability insurance could serve to strengthen public protection.
EPD indicated in its response that it would consider taking steps to have the Asbestos Safety Act amended, as recommended.
For additional information, please contact Paul E. Bernard, Director Performance Audit Operations Division, at 404.657.5220