Ocean City Today

City moves to contain EIFS debris

Building code change will require contractors to clean up shavings while working
By Katie Tabeling | Aug 03, 2017
Courtesy of: Gail Blazer Example of netting system to catch EIFS debris.

(Aug. 4, 2017) Contractors in Ocean City could soon be required to contain and clean immediately any debris from shaving polystyrene insulation materials, as the City Council on Tuesday agreed to pursue a building code amendment that gives inspectors the power to shut down a work site that does not comply.

During Tuesday’s work session, City Environmental Engineer Gail Blazer and City Engineer Terry McGean proposed altering the building code to require contractors that use Exterior Insulating Finishing Systems (EIFS) to employ specific practices to contain pollution.

As for what EIFS is, it’s a synthetic wall cladding that combines foam plastic insulation with a thin outside layer and is installed on the outside of buildings.

The problem, Blazer found as she developed the amendment through the “Green Team” after receiving several complaints about its use, is that shaping it to fit the contour of a building leaves plastic-like pellets flying everywhere.

“It’s used on every condo and hotel in Ocean City because it’s flexible and cost-effective,” McGean said.

These pellets of polystyrene often blow onto neighboring properties, inside buildings, or settle on the vegetation or waterways. Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips told the council that polystyrene does not decompose and has negative effects on Ocean City’s environment.

“It gets into our waterways, through stormwater and onto the water by the wind. It travels with the currents until it deposits on marshes, fish and crabs eat it and it blankets the bay’s bottom and suffocates it,” Phillips said.

Under the proposed building code amendment, builders “shall be made to control airborne debris including … EIFS particles in accordance with the best management practices established by the Department.” Debris must be removed from the adjoining property immediately and completely.

McGean told the council that he and Blazer opted to leave the “best management practices” the code change calls for open-ended, as technology could provide new tools in the future to collect the particles.

The engineering and planning department also agreed that for now rasping equipment could be fitted with a vacuum and that netting placed around the area to be shaped could catch any extra pellets.

At least one vacuum would be on the ground to clean up any EIFS leftovers that bypassed both those methods, and any scrap too large to be vacuumed is to be immediately sealed in a bag or container. Contents of the vacuum equipment would be emptied into sealable, disposable bags before being placed in the trash.

Construction not meeting these standards will be stopped until they are met, McGean said.

“Typically, what we’ve seen is people clean it up after we come on the site and issue fines for littering, but I think the fines are minor,” he said.

City officials state that the highest littering fine that has been levied for EIFS issues is $1,000, but the court placed that on the stet docket so the contractor could remedy the situation.

After the council was assured that this proposed new rule was vetted by All States Construction, the largest company that uses EIFS, the council agreed to hold a first reading for the amendment.

The first reading for the building code amendment is scheduled for Aug. 21.

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