Results of the Special Membership Meeting on August 6, 2018

four people holding green check signs standing on the field photography

A Special Membership Meeting was held on August 6, 2018 to approve two motions related to frame crawlspaces and asbestos found in those crawlspaces.  It was noted by Secretary Ed James that 87 members were in attendance by 7:30pm, and there were most likely more who had signed in since that number was totaled.

The first motion was read by Vice President Stefan Brodd: “Motion #1 – Amendment of the motion passed on February 8, 2018: On behalf of the GHI Board of Directors, I move that the membership of Greenbelt Homes Inc. authorize Greenbelt Homes Inc. to enter into a contract with ACM Services, to remove all abandoned above-ground heating and hot water pipes including those that contain asbestos materials, existing vapor-barrier materials and batt-insulation, from the crawlspaces of 185 frame buildings, at the contractor’s base bid of $1,588,520, plus a 10% allowance for contingencies, for a total not to exceed $1,747,372.”

Before questions were asked by the membership, General Manager Eldon Ralph spoke about why the meeting and voting was necessary:

  • The previous meeting to discuss the crawlspaces and asbestos was held on February 8, 2018.
  • Membership passed a motion to enter into contract with ACM Services to remove ALL asbestos at the cost of $1,588,520 plus 10% for contingencies, for a total not to exceed $1,747,372.
  • In the process of the crawlspace work they discovered buried asbestos, pipes with asbestos, and friable asbestos.
  • Of the 50 frame buildings that have had the asbestos removed, 9 have had friable asbestos on pipes buried in the ground, extending from one end of the crawlspace to the other.
  • The contractor’s estimate for removal of that asbestos in one frame building was $18,000-$20,000.
  • They also discovered remnants of asbestos on the ground, in many cases mixed with soil.
  • Remnants of the vapor barrier which covered non-friable asbestos are from 1940-1941.
  • Friable asbestos can be pulverized with your hands, allowing asbestos particles in the air.
  • Non-friable asbestos is in a solid matrix, and you must do a great deal of damage to allow the particles into the air; it is believed to be unlikely that this asbestos will be a problem in the future.
  • Friable asbestos was found on the pipes.
  • The moisture in the soil keeps the asbestos moist; asbestos has a greater tendency to dissipate when dry.
  • When GHI asked ACM Services to remove all the non-friable asbestos, the estimate was $15,000,000-$20,000,000.
  • At the advice of ACM and an industrial hygiene firm, GHI determined the best option would be to encapsulate all of the non-friable asbestos in the soil with a 12 mil vapor barrier material (the old vapor barrier is 6 mil).
  • The contract will be to completely cover the crawlspace floor with the vapor barrier, extend it to the walls, and affix it to the walls.
  • General Manager Ralph stressed that this is a legal and proper procedure to remedy the problem.
  • Ralph requested that the membership approve this method to encapsulate the asbestos in frame crawlspaces.
  • The staff will have periodic visual inspections of the crawlspaces and vapor barriers, and they will be responsible for all necessary repairs to keep the vapor barrier intact; an Operations and Maintenance Plan will be developed for this maintenance.

Board President Steve Skolnik explained that the first motion was to amend the contract which was approved at the previous Special Membership Meeting.  The second motion is to approve the method of encapsulation of the asbestos. The floor was then opened for questions from the membership.  Unless otherwise noted, GHI responses were answered by President Skolnik.

  • It was the understanding of this member that the EPA approves of the vapor barrier method for asbestos that is not disturbed.  Will there be limited access to the crawlspaces to ensure it is not disturbed?  How will problems of animals, such as raccoons, entering the crawlspaces via the grates be addressed?
    • It was agreed that the removable grates have been a problem.  With the new design for the crawlspaces, the grates are removed and an air vent will be added.
    • GHI will continue to keep the keys and maintain control of who has access to the crawlspaces.  GHI staff inspects the work completed  by contractors who require access to the crawlspaces.
    • The remnants of asbestos found in the soil are quarter-sized or smaller of 1941-1943 era tar paper.
  • What will be done about the underground pipes in tunnels connecting crawlspaces?
    • The tunnels are all sealed, and the pipes in the sealed tunnels will remain there.
  • What is the difference in cost from the motion voted on in February?
    • There is no difference in cost.
  • What is the difference between Motion #1 and Motion #2?
    • There is no “either/or” with the motions.  Both need to be approved for the project to proceed.
  • Will be old vapor barrier be removed or covered over?
    • It will be removed and replaced with 12 mil vapor barrier.
  • It was the understanding of this member that there was no way to know how much asbestos there was.  How is this different from what happened in the 80’s, when the contractor did not remove all the asbestos?  Have other types of spray-foam been considered instead of the vapor barrier?
    • With a previous contractor, it was the masonry homes where all asbestos was not removed as agreed upon.
    • Almost all asbestos was removed as agreed upon in frame homes; the pipes were originally meant to stay in place in the frame crawlspaces.
    • Now that it has been decided to remove the pipes from the frame crawlspaces, the asbestos must be removed from them.
    • In the HIP pilot, spray-foam was considered, but many in the Membership did not like this idea.
  • This member requested a reminder of how this will be paid for.
    • Contingency reserves will pay for part of this, however there was not enough to completely cover the cost.  The additional cost has already started being collected from members in frames and will continue to be collected until complete.
  • When was the asbestos first discovered?  Is there a notice to potential home buyers of the asbestos?  Where can the notice be found?  How can we be sure asbestos is not in the attics and throughout the units?
    • It has been known that asbestos was used since the units were built.
    • It was known since the contract in the 80’s that some asbestos was left on crawlspace pipes.  However, with crawlspace improvements, it is now necessary to remove the pipes with asbestos.
    • The other asbestos found in soil was discovered in January 2017 during HIP.
    • General Manager Ralph reiterated the date of January 2017.
    • Ralph and President Skolnik stated that potential home buyers are notified of the asbestos; Skolnik stated that the member can contact the office and speak with Ralph if she would like to review this notice.
    • Skolnik responded that air quality tests have been completed in the units and attics to ensure there is no asbestos.

The membership voted, and Motion #1 was carried.

The second motion was read by Vice President Stefan Brodd: “On behalf of the GHI Board of Directors, I move that the membership of Greenbelt Homes Inc. authorize the General Manager to permanently encapsulate buried abandoned piping and asbestos insulation, and fragments of tar paper and other materials containing asbestos on or in the earthen floors, by directing GHI’s Homes Improvement Program contractors to install impervious 12 mil vapor barrier materials on earthen floors of crawlspaces in frame buildings.  The membership understands, should this motion be adopted, that said encapsulation in lieu of removal is in full compliance with all laws and regulations concerning asbestos-containing materials.  The membership further understands that GHI will undertake an ongoing program to monitor and maintain said encapsulation on a regular schedule, so as to assure continued compliance and safety.”

The floor was then opened for questions from the membership.  Unless otherwise noted, GHI responses were answered by President Skolnik.

  • This member asked for clarification of some of the wording in the motion.  Was it deliberate to use the word “all” when referring to the laws and regulations?  GHI will monitor the encapsulation for continued compliance with what?
    • GHI always does it best to comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
    • GHI will monitor the encapsulation for compliance with all laws and regulations.
  • How long is the new vapor barrier estimated to last?
    • General Manager Ralph responded that it is estimated to last 35 years, but they believe that it could last double that time once properly installed.
  • What is the proposed schedule for maintenance of the vapor barrier?  How often will it take place?
    • An Operations and Maintenance manual will be written, with the assistance of the contractor and the industrial hygienist.
    • A representative from the industrial hygiene firm responded that a once-a-year air sampling is recommended; the plan will recommend 6 months to 1 year, which is similar to plans in schools.
  • Motion #2 takes work from the asbestos company to HIP.  Will there be a cost increase for HIP?
    • Work was shifted, but HIP contractors were already schedule to install the 12 mil vapor barrier.
    • The work for the HIP contractors has not changed, except for a training that will need to take place for the contractors.
  • Does the cost include posting warning signs of asbestos in the crawlspaces?
    • President Skolnik did not know the answer to this question; the representative from the industrial hygiene firm stated yes.
  • Is there anything written in the contract to guarantee the 35 year life of the vapor barrier?
    • The warranty is based on the workmanship of the installation.
    • It would be difficult to enforce an extended warranty with all of the people who could potentially have access to the crawlspaces.
  • Verizon will not currently enter the crawlspaces; will this be what they require to enter again?
    • Yes, this will meet Verizon’s requirements.
  • Has GHI considered the installation of conduit for cable/internet installation so that fewer people need to access the crawlspaces?
    • This discussion came up in the past when Verizon FIOS was first brought to GHI.  Verizon was supposed to install the tubing, but it never happened.
  • Who will be responsible for the quality control of the installation?
    • The industrial hygiene firm who was represented at the meeting will be responsible.
  • A member who previously asked questions for Motion #1 asked for confirmation that she can contact General Manager Ralph to learn specific dates for when the frame home were tested.  She also commented that she thought the motions needed to be more specific, as a number of terms used during the meeting were “kind of” and “it is recommended that.”
    • It was confirmed that the member can contact Ralph for this information.
    • The member was thanked for her comment.
  • A member who previously asked a question regarding spray foam, asked if there was testing done to determine if the 12 mil vapor barrier was more effective.
    • There was no testing done to determine if the vapor barrier was more effective; a decision had already been made against spray foam.
    • The 12 mil vapor barrier is very strong and thicker than required.
    • It is believed that this member will be very happy with the final product (although this member stated that he lives in a brick home).
  • When asked by the same member, if President Skolnik had confidence that this was the best way to move forward, Skolnik stated yes.  The member also asked if Skolnik would stake his presidency on it, and Skolnik responded, “Absolutely.”
  • A member who previously asked for clarification on wording of the motion, commented that they felt a continuous vapor barrier seemed to her to be more effective than spray foam.
    • She was thanked for her comment.

The membership voted, and Motion #2 was carried.

President Skolnik motioned to end the meeting.  It was seconded by numerous members, and the meeting was adjourned.


Author: Lauren Wisniewski

Lauren is a lifelong Greenbelter. She grew up in GHI as a child and returned to GHI as an owner in 2009.

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