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Improper demolitions in Alaska lead to over $75,000 in penalties for asbestos violations

Release Date: 04/5/2006
Contact Information: John Pavitt, (907) 271-3688, Mark MacIntyre, (206) 553-7302

(Juneau & Ketchikan, AK. - April 5, 2006) Owners and contractors who demolished buildings in Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska, will pay penalties for violations of federal asbestos regulations. The two enforcement cases - brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - are similar (in the types of violations that occurred) and underscore the importance of closely following requirements to notify EPA in advance and to handle asbestos wastes safely during demolitions.

In Ketchikan, The Landing Restaurant, LLC, owner of the Best Western Landing Hotel, and Bicknell, Inc., a demolition contractor, will pay a penalty of $33,000. The violations occurred during the demolition of two buildings at the Best Western Landing Hotel Complex in Ketchikan, Alaska in January 2005.

In Juneau, The Huntington Family Ltd. Partnership, owner of the Endicott Building, Hugh Grant and George Davidson will pay a penalty of $43,700. The violations occurred during the demolition of the downtown Endicott Building, which was damaged in a fire in August, 2004.

Both cases resulted in violations of federal regulations involving the removal and disposal of asbestos. Among other factors, the assessed penalty in each case considered the extensive costs incurred cleaning up and properly disposing of the demolition debris.

"We hope that other building owners and demolition contractors will learn from this situation," said Marcia Combes, EPA's Director of Alaska Operations. "When you tear down a structure or remove asbestos, it is important to notify EPA and follow the asbestos regulations."

Federal regulations require a thorough inspection of a facility for the presence of asbestos prior to any demolition activity, as well as advanced notice to EPA. In
addition, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation should be notified if the project is taking place at a business which is operating under a State air quality permit . If a significant amount of asbestos is found, certified asbestos abatement contractors are required to carefully remove the material and dispose of it following specific requirements to protect public health. These requirements include using water to wet asbestos during removal and proper disposal of the asbestos waste.

The building owners and their contractors failed to notify EPA before starting the demolitions. In addition, neither project had a trained supervisor on site to make sure they were handling the asbestos properly, and asbestos became mixed with general demolition debris and was not initially disposed of properly. In both cases, after an EPA inspector brought the asbestos violations to their attention, the building owners and contractors spent significant amounts of money and effort to ensure that the remaining asbestos and asbestos-contaminated demolition debris was cleaned up and disposed of properly.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber which was commonly used in building materials prior to the 1980's due to its fire resistant properties. Exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to respiratory diseases including asbestosis and lung cancer. Owners and operators of a demolition activity are legally required to remove, handle and dispose of asbestos according to federal regulations.

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