Ag Building Demolition & Disposal Regulations

From: Ted Funk PHD, PE

Ah, the smell of burning leaves in autumn…and the thrill of starting a brush pile on fire using an old tire and some kerosene….   It seems that some of my favorite boyhood memories were tied to activities that are now frowned upon by the clean-air establishment.  Furthermore, there seems to be a practical limit on the available landfill space (last report is that Illinois has 21 years of space left), and some things are just not supposed to go into landfills.   I guess it’s time to re-think how to dispose of some solid waste materials on the farm.


It was recently brought to my attention that livestock buildings that have outlived their usefulness can only be disposed of in certain ways.  Our Illinois environmental regulations regarding air and land have changed in the last couple of years, and farmers may as well know what liabilities those regulations create when disposing of an old, tired building.


So here goes with the timeless question: “I want to dispose of an old building.  What regulations apply?” Answer: There are several!


If the building had manure storage, that storage (such as a concrete pit) must be emptied of manure; then inspectors from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Environmental Programs, must inspect the building and sign off before it is demolished (Livestock Facility Management Regulations -- Section 900.508 (13)(k).)


Now that the manure storage is addressed, disposal methods you might consider are reusing the building (yes, wait until you count the cost of the alternatives), recycling, burying, burning, and landfilling.  Recycling is getting interesting and more available—for metal roofing, wiring, shingles, concrete, etc. 


Assuming you have now considered the reusing and recycling, let’s look at the burying next. 


“Construction or demolition debris” has an extensive writeup by the US EPA on what’s clean, what’s hazardous, etc. You may only bury what is called “clean construction and demolition debris” (CCDD) onsite.  It’s no surprise that there is a definition for that material, and that there are commercial sites that accept the debris if you don’t want to bury it on your property.  You may, without a permit, bury CCDD on the site where it’s generated, although you have to bury it with a deep enough soil cover to sustain vegetation, or else build a roadway or structure over it. The alternatives are to re-purpose those parts of the building (or pavement), or else send them to a recycler or a licensed CCDD fill operation. 


So let’s see how CCDD is defined under Sec. 3.160 of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act: Construction or demolition debris, Subsection (b) “Clean construction or demolition debris” means uncontaminated broken concrete without protruding metal bars [my emphasis added], bricks, rock, stone, reclaimed or other asphalt pavement, or soil generated from construction or demolition activities.  If you bury CCDD onsite, you need to cut off any protruding metal bars (and dispose of them separately, either by recycling or in a regular landfill).


In the Environmental Protection Act, Title 35 Subtitle J Part 1150 covers fees for CCDD fill operations, i.e. the licensed fill sites that will take clean fill, or CCDD.  (This became effective in July, 2010).  There is a list of CCDD fill sites at IEPA (, but there are only 74 sites listed for the state, and only a few are in the southern half. There is a stepwise (total cubic yards or tons per year per customer) tipping fee, collected by the state, for putting clean fill in one of the sites.  This would be in addition to any fee collected by the site operator.


If you choose to demolish any building, you really must have an asbestos certification performed.  The only exception is an owner-occupied farmhouse and a building(s) associated with it, such as a garage or outbuilding.  Asbestos-containing materials must be identified, and in some cases you may want to have them separated out.  There will be a cost to the asbestos inspection, based in part on the number of samples taken for lab analysis.  Transite, black mastic under floor tiles, some caulks, most 9x9 floor tiles, some ceiling tiles, the occasional batch of vermiculite insulation—lots of things can have asbestos in them.  Asbestos is a fantastically useful and versatile material!  Too bad it also causes lung cancer….


Lest you think that your building is new enough that it couldn’t possibly have asbestos in it, realize that asbestos is not banned from new construction (unlike lead-based paint).  It’s rather rare to find asbestos in new building materials, but still possible.  There is a list of non-banned uses of asbestos at the US EPA website .


If you want to remove those materials on-site, you can’t just have employees do that.  An owner can do it himself, but there are rules about others being involved in asbestos-containing materials removal.  There is a $150 fee for the asbestos form (State of Illinois Renovation/Demolition/Asbestos Project Notification Form) that goes to IEPA.  See .  Depending on the form of the asbestos containing materials in the building (and there are classifications on those forms; the inspector should be able to tell you what they are), there are restrictions on what kind of equipment and techniques you may use to demolish the building.  The idea is to keep asbestos fibers from being dispersed into the air during the demolition.  Do a web search on NESHAP if you are interested.


A couple of notes on sending asbestos-containing materials (ACM) to a landfill:


  • Notify the landfill before you send the materials.  Some landfills put ACM in with general demolition waste.  But other landfills may want ACM separated out, or else they will designate the entire load as ACM, which goes to a separate area of the landfill and has a much higher tipping fee.  The landfill may also only accept ACM on certain days.

  • Landfills may want certain ACM materials to come in sealed dumpsters.  This can be done with a plastic liner folded over the top of the load, or with the materials bagged. 


Most buildings contain wood framing, sheet metal cladding and liner, electrical wiring, pipe, etc.  Once you get everything out that you can reclaim or recycle, the rest—the “general construction and demolition waste”—can be landfilled.


Now let’s look at the burning option.  You might be tempted to call an old building “agriculture waste” so you could burn it under the Agriculture Waste & Open Burning exemption.  However, the wording in Title 35 Section 201 clearly excludes buildings from the definition of agriculture waste.  Old tires can’t be burned, either, in case any of you old-timers feel nostalgic and want to light off a brush pile with a tire and kerosene this winter. 


In general, a farm building cannot, according to the regulation, be just pushed down and lighted.  Can you burn the building while it is still standing?   In some county jurisdictions, a standing building can be burned in place while used for firefighter training.  That requires its own permit from the local jurisdiction.   CAUTION: if the building has asbestos-containing materials, those MUST BE REMOVED prior to burning the building.  Otherwise an asbestos cleanup operation will be required, and you don’t want to get into that.


Asbestos-containing materials may not be burned. Period.


So the short answer to whether you may burn an old building is—No.  A big smoke signal on the horizon may draw some unwanted attention.


In summary, the decision about whether to demolish an old building is not as easy as it once was.  While we understand and respect the intent of environmental and health regulations, those rules do bring their own complications and costs.  Do your homework before starting any demolition work on the farm, because you might save yourself a lot of headaches. 


Here are some resources you might find helpful:


“Construction and Demolition Debris”

“Asbestos Program”

Licensed Asbestos Inspectors database at Illinois Department of Public Health

Title 35, Subtitle B, Part 237, “Open Burning.” 

“IEPA Information for Open Burning Permits,” .

C&D Recycling Association at (search their database by zip code and distance, state, etc.)