The owner of a company facing proposed federal safety fines following the death of two workers overcome by sewer gases in Kennebunkport last month said today he plans to challenge the penalty.

“If a fine could bring them back, we certainly would do that,” said Tim Stevens, owner of Stevens Electric & Pump Service Inc. “It’s not the money so much. I just don’t want people to think that we’re a careless company and I certainly don’t want people to think we don’t have the equipment on the job site.”

Fifty-eight-year-old Winfield Studley of Windsor and 70-year-old Richard Kemp of Monmouth died from inhalation of sewer gases last month while working on a sewer pump inside a tank at the Lodge at Turbats Creek, a Kennebunkport motel.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed a total of $16,800 in fines and cited the employer for four safety violations, including failure to ventilate the area where the men were working and failing to test the air quality before and during the work. OSHA also said there was no system in place for an emergency rescue for the employees.

Karen Billups, assistant area director at OSHA’s Augusta office, said the agency could not provide details of its investigation until after the fines are settled. The company has until Nov. 4 to contest the action or pay the fines. Stevens said he has asked for an informal meeting with OSHA investigators in Augusta and that he expects to formally contest the findings.

Stevens said all of the required ventilation and monitoring equipment was on the truck at the job site, and that all of the company’s employees had received refresher training on safety practices two weeks before the accident.

“I am not trying to say anything bad or negative about my employees, because they were my friends,” Stevens said. “They chose not to use the equipment and we don’t know why.”

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