No Remediation Plan? Idaho Hotel Owner Pays $21,000 Fine to EPA for Improper Asbestos Removal
A recent settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and BBA Winchester LLC (“BBA Winchester”) provides a great teaching lesson for all those involved in the rehabilitation or demolition of older buildings. This week, BBA Winchester paid a $21,000 fine to the EPA for asbestos safety and environmental violations related to BBA Winchester’s demolition of a 100-year old hotel it owned in Winchester, Idaho. That fine is in addition to asbestos remediation costs.
After receiving complaints from the public concerning the hotel’s demolition, the EPA inspected the site and determined that BBA Winchester demolished the hotel without first inspecting for asbestos, removing asbestos materials, or notifying the EPA. All requirements under federal law. In addition, the demolition was in a residential neighborhood and caused fears within the community about potential health risks.
The EPA is charged with regulating hazardous air pollutants such as asbestos as part of mission to protect public health. Accordingly, owners and contractors are required by law to conduct investigations for the presence of asbestos prior to beginning any demolition and to take steps to protect workers and the public from asbestos exposure. Federal regulations require the owner of the building or the building manager to notify the appropriate state agency before any demolition, or before any renovations of buildings that could contain a certain threshold amount of asbestos or asbestos-containing material.
Scott Downey, Manager of the Air and Hazardous Waste Compliance Unit at the EPA’s Seattle Office had this to say about the Winchester incident:
This is an unfortunate example that when asbestos is not properly removed before demolition, the entire debris pile becomes contaminated, putting people at risk, and greatly increasing disposal costs. Because this owner failed to check for asbestos before demolition, their $2,000 demolition project ballooned into a $55,000 asbestos waste cleanup and disposal problem.
For those us involved in rehabilitation or demolition projects, the lesson here is that protecting the public and workers from asbestos exposure is not only the law but that failure to follow it can result in significant expenses for both owners and contractors.