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New Martinsville, W.Va. - The United States Environmental Agency today announced it has settled the government’s lawsuit over violations of federal asbestos regulations during a June 1995 renovation at the Riverside Plaza Shopping Center in New Martinsville, W.Va. Under the settlement, the owner of Riverside Plaza Shopping Center paid a $105,000 penalty. A tenant paid a $40,000 penalty in a previous settlement..
In September 1997, the government sued the shopping center’s owners, Riverside Plaza Partnership and its partners Edward C. Beshara, Fred M. Beshara, and James Beshara, and its tenant Stone & Thomas for improperly removing about 31,000 square feet of asbestos-containing vinyl asbestos floor tile and mastic to prepare space for a new store. According to the complaint, the defendants did not notify EPA or West Virginia of its plans to remove this asbestos-containing material. They failed to keep this material adequately wet until disposal, promptly dispose of asbestos-containing waste, and have a properly trained representative on site.
In an October 23 settlement, the shopping center owners agreed to pay a $105,000 penalty in order to amicably resolve the case. In a similar settlement filed in May 1998, Stone & Thomas agreed to pay $40,000 to resolve its civil liability for these violations. Both settlement figures take into account the defendants’ claims of inability to pay a more substantial penalty. The government did not seek injunctive relief because the asbestos-containing materials were cleaned up by September 1995. The defendants have denied any liability regarding the allegations of the complaint.
Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant that was once heavily used in insulation and other building materials. Exposure and inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause cancer and asbestosis, a serious respiratory disease. To reduce the risk of asbestos emissions, EPA’s regulations require that asbestos-containing materials that may release asbestos fibers during demolition or renovation must be adequately wetted during removal. These materials must remain adequately wetted, securely bagged or otherwise treated to minimize asbestos emissions until disposal.