EPA orders company to stop removing asbestos
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Olivet Management LLC to stop all work that could disturb asbestos at its facility, The Olivet Center in Dover, New York. Buildings at the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center are being renovated for future use as a research institution and information technology hub by Olivet University. Olivet Management did not notify the EPA about the asbestos work and did not handle or dispose of asbestos-containing materials properly during the renovations, as required by law.
Asbestos was once used in insulation and other building materials. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to cancer and asbestosis, a serious respiratory disease. The removal of asbestos-containing materials during demolition requires strict adherence to procedures outlined in the Clean Air Act to protect public health.
Federal regulations require property owners or operators to notify the EPA before the demolition or renovation of buildings that could contain a certain amount of asbestos. Demolition and renovation work involving asbestos must be done carefully. Before demolition and construction activities can begin, inspections must be conducted to identify the presence of asbestos and materials that may pose a threat to the health of workers or the public must be removed.
Materials containing asbestos must be wet down until they are collected and disposed of properly to prevent fibers and dust from becoming airborne during renovations and demolitions. Asbestos-containing materials must be disposed of at facilities licensed to receive the waste.
On November 4 and 5, 2013, EPA inspectors, in coordination with inspectors from the New York State Department of Labor and the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, inspected the site after being refused access three days earlier. The inspectors examined six buildings and the surrounding areas, sampled materials appearing to contain asbestos and observed numerous potential violations of the asbestos requirements. Many of the buildings contained significant amounts of asbestos.
The EPA legal order alleges that Olivet Management violated the federal Clean Air Act asbestos regulations by failing to provide adequate notice to EPA of construction projects involving asbestos, adequately wet all regulated asbestos-containing material that had been removed or stripped from the site and ensure that all of these materials remained adequately wet until collected and contained in preparation for proper disposal.
In addition to halting work at the site, the EPA order requires Olivet Management to prepare a comprehensive site cleanup work plan, submit the plan to EPA for review and approval to ensure it conforms with asbestos requirements and ensure that future demolition and activities at the site comply with EPA’s order. The EPA’s investigation is ongoing.