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  • Writer's pictureUS Industrial

Decontamination is one of the most important aspects of commercial demolition

Finding and identifying chemical, toxic, and hazardous substances on a demolition site is just the start of a crucial process that goes well beyond just disposing of those substances safely. Even with the bulk of something like asbestos removed, traces will be found throughout the structure which would all be released into the atmosphere during demolition. This endangers the public and the demolition team working on-site, so a pre- demolition industrial clean has to go much deeper.

Decontamination services can be provided on any size of building, and can include industrial cleaning of plant, machinery, and other fittings such as ducting and pipework. As with every part of a demolition, this process begins with a detailed survey of the building to identify hazardous substances, and putting together a decontamination plan. This covers safety details such as providing decontamination stations, specialist equipment, and a range of procedures for preventing cross-contamination, as well as outlining the decontamination methods to be used.

An essential part of this process is looking at permeation; has the contaminant soaked into other building materials or, like asbestos fibres, moved around with air flow or through ducting? Sometimes contamination is very contained and removal is quite straightforward for an expert team, but if there is widespread permeation into other materials, it can create a much more significant clean up operation before industrial or commercial demolition will get a sign off to proceed.

Methods of decontamination to achieve a true 6-log reduction

Any industrial decontamination involving toxic or hazardous substances should be targeting a full 6-log kill; a hospital grade decontamination removing 99.9999% of targeted contaminants. After expert removal of bulk contaminants such as asbestos fibre-board or tanks of liquid chemicals, a number of further methods can be used to ensure the area around it is stripped clean of permeated traces:

Contaminant removal

After removing the bulk of contaminants safely, and the machinery and materials in direct contact with them, further removal processes such as liquid rinses, pressurized air jetting, steam cleaning, and chemical extraction can all be used to remove traces of materials from a much wider area.

Contaminant inactivation

Some contaminants may be hard to remove, but straightforward to make inactive through processes like oxidation, neutralization, thermal degradation, or conventional disinfection and sterilization with chemicals or steam cleaning. These solutions won't work with every type of contaminant, but can be very useful with a range of industrial chemicals.

Of course, all traces of hazardous substances including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, radioactive contaminants, hydrocarbons, and other toxic and corrosive substances must be expertly removed from site after cleaning, and safely transported to a licensed disposal site.

Taking an expert approach to commercial demolition decontaminations

With chemical solutions in particular, great care must be taken to apply the right chemicals to the decontaminant, otherwise you only risk further contamination. Some materials can be removed with little more than water or a light detergent or soap, but there are also many specialist cleaning products and chemicals used including alcohol, alkanes, and petroleum products.

After decontamination works are completed, further surveys and analysis are essential to ensure everything that needs to be removed has been; this can include visual checks, sometimes using ultraviolet light, as well as wipe sampling, analysis of the cleaning solutions used, and testing for permeation.

Professional decontaminations are an essential part of any industrial or commercial demolition, they ensure environmental and safety standards are maintained for everyone working on, or living around, the demolition site. Without a full decontamination the demolition won't be approved or able to go ahead, so ensuring you find a demolition company with the expertise to get decontamination right first time, is essential to keeping your schedules and costs on track.


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