EPA files complaint against city of Winslow, former city administrator, apartment complex owner for asbestos removal and demolition violations
SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recently filed a complaint against the city of Winslow, Ariz., a former city administrator, and a former apartment complex owner for improper asbestos removal and demolition of nine apartment buildings -- violations of the Clean Air Act.
The city, former City Administrator John Roche and former apartment complex owner William Christie were responsible for the demolition of the Apache Apartments, located on the 1100 block of Apache Avenue, that included the breaking up of, collection, transport and burning of asbestos-containing materials.
“This is one of the worst asbestos-related violations we have seen,” said Deborah Jordan, the EPA’s Air Division Director for the Pacific Southwest region. “The regulations that were violated in this case are designed to protect workers and the public from exposure to friable asbestos, a known carcinogen. Not only was asbestos released to the outside air during the demolition, but released again at the landfill, and again when the debris was burned and uncontained for weeks.”
After the city declared the apartment buildings uninhabitable, Christie signed an agreement in May 2002 stating that he would remove asbestos-containing transite siding from the buildings and pay the city $3,000 in return for city-employed crews to demolish and haul away all structures on the property.
Christie, the city and Roche failed to notify the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in writing their intent to demolish the apartments. After the city demolished four of the nine buildings, an ADEQ inspector, acting on complaints from Winslow residents, directed the city to stop all demolition work pending a thorough asbestos survey, directed the city to submit notification before any work resumed, and notified the city of its legal requirements.
Roche, acting for the city, refused to comply and the remaining five buildings were demolished with asbestos-containing materials in place. Some asbestos-contaminated debris was improperly disposed of at the Painted Desert Landfill, and additional asbestos debris was transported to city-owned property and burned -- resulting in additional asbestos release and exposure to workers and the public.
Under the complaint, the city, Christie and Roche allegedly violated the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for asbestos, including:
· failure to notify ADEQ of asbestos removal activities,
· failure to remove asbestos-containing materials,
· failure to keep the materials adequately wet to prevent air borne fibers,
· failure to ensure that no visible emissions from asbestos-containing materials were emitted into the air, and
· failure to keep waste shipment records for all asbestos-containing materials transported off the facility site.
The defendants are subject to civil penalties of up to $27,500 per day for each violation.
The EPA has classified asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant. Individuals exposed to asbestos fibers are at risk of contracting illnesses such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.
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