WILTON — The Maine Department of Environmental Protection plans to fine the private companies that the state agency says broke asbestos removal laws at a contaminated demolition site.

Owners of the responsible companies — Wilton Recycling LLC and Downeast Construction — have been notified of the violations and state officials are working to determine how much they should pay in fines, according to Samantha Depoy-Warren, spokeswoman for the agency.

Meanwhile, a state-licensed cleanup effort will continue to remove the harmful, cancer-causing building material found at the complex of vacant manufacturing buildings on Depot Street, she said Friday.

Since asbestos cleanup started in late August, the hazardous material has been removed from piles of debris scattered among the partially demolished buildings, some more than a century old.

“The asbestos containing materials are within the building and the building is secure, and so the department wants to assure the community they are not at risk of exposure,” Depoy-Warren said.

The responsible companies are accused of breaking Maine laws. The alleged violations happened before a federal agency reported July 19 that construction workers and emergency responders may have been exposed to dangerously high levels of asbestos at the site.

After the discovery, state environmental officials investigated and found that construction workers had been removing asbestos without the required protective gear and equipment, according to DEP violation notices sent to the companies.

Investigators said the companies also didn’t have required asbestos inspections done before starting demolition work at the site in April, as well as failing to meet other state guidelines for removing asbestos from a contaminated site, the notices state.

Depoy-Warren said the severity of penalties or fines will be based on a variety of factors. There are some violations that are handled without fines, depending on the circumstances, she said.

“We do think that this case (in Wilton) warrants a monetary penalty,” she said, declining to give the reason.

What caused the violation is typically the most important factor in determining enforcement, with the accused facing civil charges if they refuse to pay fines, according to Depoy-Warren.

“Based on whether we have proof that they were willful violations, knowingly violating the laws, and that definitely affects the size of the fine,” she said.

Each case is looked at individually and the ultimate goal of enforcement is not to bring someone to civil court but to protect public health and the environment, she said.

Depoy-Warren said the DEP enforcement is also working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has launched a criminal investigation looking into the contamination at the site.

Downeast Construction voluntarily pulled its workers from the demolition site after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported finding high levels of asbestos.

Eleven firefighters and at least one police officer from Wilton responded to a small fire on the property the day before the federal regulatory agency reported its findings.

Wilton Recycling LLC owns the demolition site and Downeast Construction purchased the salvage rights, which are tied to selling materials from the project, according to Adam Mack, who manages from Portland the corporation that owns the site.

When asked Friday about the violation notices, Mack declined to answer questions.

“We are not going to comment on those notices at this time,” he said.

During past interviews, Mack, who is a former Republican state representative for Standish, has stated the companies had approval from the town and DEP for the project.

He contends his corporation and the construction company didn’t know about the asbestos before the federal agency contacted them.

Asbestos cleanup started Aug. 26 at the contaminated site after a federal agency threatened to take action against the responsible companies, which had promptly hired an asbestos removal company.

Depoy-Warren said the asbestos-containing material found within the building by the removal company included 8,000 linear feet of pipe and pipe covering, 1,000 square feet of boiler coverings and 4,000 square feet of floor tile.

Bob Rickett, whose asbestos removal company was hired by the site owners, said Thursday that demolition has been cleared to resume on certain portions of the property, where asbestos is not present.

Asbestos cleanup will resume inside the buildings after the companies secure more financing, with the overall cleanup costs likely to exceed $150,000, Rickett said, declining to give further details.

Mack said Friday that there is no timetable for when demolition will start again at the site.

Meanwhile, OSHA officials said Thursday the investigation into the asbestos exposure is continuing.

David Robinson – 861-9287

[email protected]

 


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