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Asbestos Violations Spur EPA, OSHA Bills

Thursday, April 14, 2016

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Federal authorities are cracking down on asbestos hazards at commercial and multi-residential building projects.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday (April 11) that an Idaho-based ski and snowboard park owner and developer will pay a $10,000 penalty to settle a claim it violated federal asbestos regulations.

Meanwhile, in Texas, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has recently cited five companies for allegedly failing to inform workers renovating a San Antonio building of the presence of asbestos. Those companies face more than $180,000 in proposed fines.

© / j4m3z

Asbestos fibers may be released into the air when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or during demolition work and building or maintenance, repair or remodeling.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that naturally occurs in rock and soil. It was historically used in building materials and in construction for fireproofing and insulation. If inhaled, microscopic asbestos particles can lodge deep in the lungs, increasing risks of developing lung disease or cancer.

Demolition Dangers

According to the EPA, Gateway Parks LLC, of Boise, allegedly violated asbestos rules when it failed to notify the EPA before asbestos-containing buildings were demolished at the former Lazy J Tavern complex in Eagle, ID, northwest of Boise.

“EPA’s asbestos rules require building owners and contractors to notify the EPA in advance of demolition projects and to use certified professionals to remove asbestos before demolition,” according to Director Ed Kowalski of EPA’s Pacific Northwest Office of Compliance and Enforcement.

“When you fail to follow those procedures, your job site can become contaminated and put public health at risk from asbestos exposure.”

Kowalski says Gateway Parks cut corners—turning a $14,000 demolition project into a $75,000 mess.

In May 2014, a consultant had inspected eight buildings on the former Lazy J Tavern property to prepare for demolition and submitted a bid for asbestos abatement in six of the buildings.

Asbestos in lungs
Centers for Disease Control

If inhaled, microscopic asbestos particles can lodge deep in the lungs, increasing risks of developing lung disease or cancer.

However, Gateway Parks was said to have rejected the bid, demolishing some of the buildings without notifying EPA.

An investigation was spurred by a public complaint in December 2014 and the debris was discovered.

Ordered Cleanup

In April 2015, EPA ordered Gateway Parks to clean up asbestos-contaminated debris from buildings already demolished and to follow required safe work practices for all pending building demolitions.

The company hired an asbestos abatement contractor and the site was cleaned up by May 2015. 

EPA says approximately 27 truckloads containing a total of 945 cubic yards of debris mixed with asbestos-containing materials were hauled to a permitted landfill where it was safely disposed.

Gateway Parks owner Ryan Neptune told the Idaho Statesman, “Although we completely disagree with the EPA in the case, it was simply cheaper to settle than to continue to argue with an albatross like the EPA. At the end of the day we are happy that the property is now certified, cleaned, clear and ready for development.”

Read more here:

OSHA Cites 5

Five Texas-based companies face a total of $185,150 in federal fines for allegedly exposing workers to asbestos and electrical hazards while renovating a multi-family rental property in San Antonio.

OSHA discovered the hazards in October 2015 at the One Eleven Park Avenue project.

The agency levied fines against:

  • Roscoe Properties Inc., of Austin;
  • One Eighty Construction, of Austin;
  • Varco Builders of Texas, of Austin;
  • One Eleven Park, San Antonio; and
  • Colors Unlimited, of Austin.

Citation documents in each case are linked below.

Building owner One Eleven Park has settled its case and paid a fine of $2,240, according to an OSHA spokesman. All other firms have contested.

Asbestos Exposure

The agency cited commercial developer and property manager Roscoe Properties Inc. and contractor One Eighty Construction with one willful violation each for allegedly failing to notify employees of the presence, location and quantity of asbestos.

The agency also cited One Eighty Construction for one serious violation for allegedly failing to ensure workers properly removed the asbestos tainted materials.

Proposed fines against Roscoe and One Eighty Construction total $70,000 and $76,230, respectively.

Both companies were previously cited for asbestos-related violations at another apartment complex in November 2015, OSHA said.

The real estate and construction firms are owned by Jason Berkowitz. Roscoe manages more than 50 properties throughout Texas.

Additionally, authorities cited Varco Builders of Texas, a renovation contractor with over 20 years of experience, for allegedly failing to use adequate work practices during asbestos removal and for failing to protect employees from electrical hazards.

OSHA levied $27,720 in proposed fines for the alleged safety and health citations.

One Eleven Park, the building owner, and Colors Unlimited, the flooring subcontractor, were also cited for alleged serious asbestos-related violations at the site. Proposed fines for those hazards totaled $11,200.


Tagged categories: Asbestos; Commercial Construction; Construction; Demolition; EPA; Health and safety; Maintenance + Renovation; Multifamily; North America; OSHA; Renovation

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