Phil Castle, The Business Times
Asbestos removal follows strict procedures that can require sealing off an area with plastic sheeting, filtering the air and equipping crews with protective suits and respirators.
Shaun Witkamp said the effort looks like a scene from “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” — the one in which a containment team invades the family home.
“It’s a crazy process. But it’s a good process and it’s a safe process,” said Witkamp, founder of Regional Asbestos Mitigation Services.
Safe is the key word, Witkamp said, in protecting crews that remove asbestos and, of course, the homeowners, businesses and government agencies that contract with his company.
A meticulous approach and clear communications with customers also have helped, he said, in growing a business that operates offices in Grand Junction, Aurora and Colorado Springs and provides services across Colorado and Wyoming.
Witkamp launched Regional Asbestos about eight years ago. He said he was looking for an “economy proof” business less susceptible to ups and downs.
The company provides a range of asbestos testing and abatement services to residential, commercial and government markets. Witkamp said that can range from inspections and hazard assessments to small and large abatement projects.
Asbestos was hailed at one time as the “miracle mineral” for its use in a variety of building materials, Witkamp said. That includes everything from ceiling tiles, cements and drywall texture to flooring, insulation and joint compounds.
Risks occur when asbestos breaks down into microscopically small fibers that can become airborne and inhaled or ingested, he said. Then the mineral causes cancer, chronic lung conditions and other illnesses.
While asbestos was banned in the United States in the late 1980s, homes and buildings constructed before then could have been built with materials containing asbestos, he said.
Asbestos often is discovered in cleaning up after a fire, flood or sewage backup, Witkamp said. The other common situation occurs with demolitions, renovations or remodeling.
People who suspect they’ve uncovered asbestos should call in inspectors to test materials and assess hazards, he said. If asbestos is found, it must be properly mitigated or removed to safeguard health.
Colorado imposes some of the most stringent rules of any state in regulating asbestos mitigation. But Witkamp said he considers that a good thing. In fact, Regional Asbestos takes requirements a step further. “We’ve taken it above and beyond and being even more safe.”
If regulations call for a certain thickness of plastic sheeting with 12-inch overlaps, Regional Asbestos might use even thicker sheeting with 14-inch overlaps, Witkamp said.
Depending on what’s involved in the project, crews set up not only a work area, but also separate chambers for equipment, showers and changing.
Asbestos abatement also can require the use of what are called negative air machines that draw air through filters to remove particles, Witcamp said. Workers wear protective equipment that includes special suits, gloves and respirators.
Abatement projects are inspected after completion and the air tested for the presence of particles. Witkamp said his crews strive to come in below not only minimum levels, but also readable levels.
Maintaining commnication with customers constitutes another priority throughout the process, he said. Project managers send reports to customers on what was completed that day and what’s planned for the next day.
Asbestos abatement can become the worst part of remodeling, but Witkamp said his company tries to make the experience better.
Since Witkamp started Regional Asbestos in 2012, the company has grown from a staff of three to 20 with nine employees in Grand Junction.
Sales have increased 20 percent to
30 percent a year, gains bolstered in large part by work in the Grand Junction area, he said. “We’ve had a very successful business in the Grand Valley.”
Witkamp expects the trend to continue — along with the processes through which his company goes to remove asbestos.
For more information about Regional Asbestos Mitigation Services, call 242-0016 or visit https://regionalasbestos.com.