Each construction project requires scrutiny to ensure you follow local, state and federal regulations on building sites. With sustainability becoming a priority, industry professionals must pay extra attention to environmental regulations in construction. Otherwise, they’ll run into trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You must follow these EPA regulations to ensure compliance with federal environmental laws.
How Do EPA Regulations Affect the Construction Industry?
While it has only existed since 1970, the EPA’s influence on the construction industry is substantial. This government agency is responsible for patrolling how the building sector affects the environment. The EPA develops guidelines and enforces laws signed by the president to minimize environmental damage during construction and maintain safe building conditions afterward.
EPA regulations affect the construction industry in four areas. Following the laws regarding these environmental regulations in construction is essential for compliance and avoiding fines.
- Air: The Clean Air Act (CAA) has seen numerous amendments, but the law gives the EPA authority to regulate air emissions. For example, the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment addresses toxic air emissions, acid rain and urban air pollution — three areas construction must be aware of for compliance.
- Lead: Paint is essential for a house’s aesthetics, but this material can contain lead. EPA regulations address lead for human and environmental health in construction, monitoring dust, air, water and other common places for this dangerous substance.
- Waste: Waste is a significant concern for the EPA, as construction and demolition (C&D) debris causes long-term environmental harm. An older EPA estimate says C&D projects in the U.S. generated about 600 million tons of waste in 2018. The European Union (EU) says it’s responsible for one-third of all waste in its member nations.
- Water: The EPA’s primary concern with water in construction is stormwater runoff. Pollution from construction sites can contaminate it as it trails into nearby sewage systems and bodies of water, so the EPA regulations are strict.
Environmental Regulations in Construction for a Green Project
Before beginning a project, the building team should review what specific EPA regulations they should follow. Additionally, they should remain aware of new policies as the federal government develops more environmental regulations in construction. Here are five rules your crew should follow to ensure a green project.
- Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure
Spills are among the most significant concerns for construction sites because their impact can spread far from the built facility. For instance, spilling waste into the Mississippi River would affect up to 50 cities relying on this water. Thus, the EPA enforces a spill prevention, control and countermeasure (SPCC) regulation to protect the water supply.
One regulation construction should focus on concerns transfer tanks. The EPA mandates above-ground fuel transfer tanks over 55 gallons to comply with containment requirements. For example, crews must implement spill barriers and drainage systems to ensure safety. Proper compliance reduces the risk of drinking water contamination and maintains community health.
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Another way the EPA regulates hazardous waste is through the Resource Conservation and Recovery (RCRA) Act. This 1976 law gives the EPA control over waste generation, transportation, treatment and other ways it can affect the environment. Later amendments let the EPA regulate underground tanks with hazardous substances due to their liabilities.
Construction crews can abide by the RCRA by auditing their waste streams, training employees on minimization tactics, inspecting for hazardous materials and preparing contingency plans for waste generation. These tactics will create a more environmentally friendly project and impress stakeholders.
- Toxic Substances Control Act
The federal government enforced strong regulations on lead in the 1970s and 1980 after discovering its adverse effects on human health and the environment. For instance, the U.S. banned lead in 1978, although you can still see it in many doorways and closets in older homes.
During this time, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 was a critical piece of legislation. The TSCA authorizes the EPA to review chemicals used in construction and determine their human and environmental risk.
Construction companies must comply with the TSCA by ensuring their materials don’t contain asbestos, lead, formaldehyde or other dangerous substances. Renovating buildings constructed before 1978 deserves extra attention to ensure crews don’t put themselves or the occupants at risk.
- Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act is one of America’s most crucial pieces of legislation because it addresses pollution issues in numerous industries. The EPA administers this law by enforcing air quality standards, emissions requirements and other pressing environmental problems.
Construction supervisors should be aware of the Clean Air Act because it regulates refrigeration, air conditioning and other critical aspects of building sites. Refrigeration and air conditioning negatively affect the ozone layer, thus contributing to global warming. EPA guidelines curb this pollution by regulating hydrofluorocarbons and other harmful substances.
Project managers comply with the Clean Air Act by using EPA-compliant refrigerants and following the administration’s regulations on recycling old materials. Additionally, they must know how to repair refrigerant leaks to ensure the job site doesn’t contribute harmful pollutants.
Clean Air Act compliance leads to less pollution on building sites and minimizes the impact of new construction on a community. Additionally, it protects workers by safeguarding them from toxic fumes and diseases.
- Clean Water Act
Five years after the Clean Air Act, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to let the federal government maintain its water supply. This act empowers the EPA to address pollution, control wastewater and protect wetlands nationwide.
Construction sites should comply with the Clean Water Act using the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). EPA regulations say anybody releasing pollutants must have an NPDES permit, helping you determine how much you can discharge and your reporting requirements.
Following the Clean Water Act and NPDES regulations helps construction crews maintain accountability for the pollution generated. They may have to deal with some waste, but the reporting requirements encourage responsible equipment use and produce cleaner building sites.
Complying With Modern Construction Regulations
The built environment has shifted its focus to sustainable practices due to its ecological impact in the last century. Environmental regulations in construction emphasize the importance of compliance — otherwise, companies face fines and penalties.
The EPA is one of America’s leading governing bodies on environmental regulations, so focusing on its guidelines is essential for modern construction businesses. These five regulations are among the most prevalent for project managers to focus on when finding ways to make their projects greener.