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Oregon Developer and Construction Firm Agree to Pay over $37,000 to Resolve Clean Air Act Violations


Two Oregon Companies involved in property rehabilitation and redevelopment --- Cook Development Corp. (CDC) and Birch Creek Construction, Inc, (BCC) --- have agreed to pay penalties totaling $37,500 to settle with EPA for alleged violations of the asbestos National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (asbestos NESHAP), under the Clean Air Act (CAA) during their extensive renovation of the Commodore Apartments located on Court Street in The Dalles, Oregon in May 2001. CDC paid $30,000 in penalties earlier this year and BCC recently agreed to pay an additional $7,500 in penalties.

In May 2006, the Department of Justice filed a complaint on behalf of EPA in the U.S. District Court in Oregon alleging that the developer CDC and contractor BCC violated the asbestos NESHAP regulations when they gutted the interior of a mixed-use four story building when:

they failed to provide written notification in advance of beginning the asbestos removal in May 2001;
they did not adequately wet regulated asbestos-containing materials (RACM) during the stripping operation or seal it in leak-tight containers;
they did not have at least one trained supervisor on site and dumped the waste material without labeling it at an area landfill; and
they failed to keep records of the wastes removed from the building site, as required by the regulations.

“We hope that building owners, developers and contractors learn from this situation,” said Socorro Rodriguez, EPA’s Director of Oregon Operations. “When you are tearing down or renovating a structure that has asbestos, it is important to notify the proper authorities and follow the asbestos regulations.” In Oregon, the Department of Environmental Quality administers the asbestos NESHAP program and notices are sent to their office.

Federal regulations require a thorough inspection of a facility for the presence of asbestos prior to any demolition or renovation activity, as well as advance notice to EPA or the state or local agency that administers the asbestos NESHAP program. If a threshold amount of asbestos is found, certified asbestos abatement contractors are required to dispose of the material following specific work practices designed to protect public health. These requirements include using water to wet the asbestos during removal, carefully handling, bagging and labeling of wastes, and their proper disposal.

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 or renovation activity are legally required to remove, handle and dispose of asbestos according to federal regulations.


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