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Three accused of asbestos violations

Juneau businessmen could pay $123,000 for alleged infractions after Skinner building fire

Posted: Friday, August 26, 2005

The U.S. Environmental Protection has cited three Juneau business operators for asbestos violations during last year's demolition of the burned Skinner building in downtown Juneau.

The proposed civil penalty is $123,387 for violating the federal Clean Air Act.

"The whole project was completed with a disregard for the regulations set in place to minimize the risk of people becoming gravely ill," said Marcia Combes, EPA's director of Alaska operations.

The asbestos at the Skinner building wasn't properly contained and dust was reported billowing from the demolition site, said John Pavitt, an EPA air compliance inspector from Anchorage.

"It's a problem that didn't have to happen," Pavitt said.

The three accused parties include the Huntington Family Ltd. Partnership, which owned the building; Hugh Grant, of DJG Construction; and George Davidson, of EMPS Engineering, all of Juneau.

Rick Nelson, a Juneau attorney representing the three, said Thursday that they would dispute the EPA's allegations but declined to comment further.

Pavitt said the case is being handled administratively, meaning that it hasn't been filed in a court. Because at least one of the accused parties is out of town and another is leaving town soon, the EPA has extended a deadline for them to respond to the administrative charges until November.

EPA declared the asbestos pile created at the demolition site a public health hazard last September and required a thorough cleanup.

Asbestos can cause potentially fatal lung diseases, including asbestosis and cancer.

The 18-tenant commercial Skinner building burned down on Aug. 15. Later, asbestos was detected in the building's floor tiles. Though a state official had provided a warning to someone at the site about federal asbestos requirements, the owner and people responsible for the demolition did not hire an asbestos-trained crew to remove the contaminated material. Instead, some of the material was improperly dumped it in the city dump, Pavitt said.

About 1,800 cubic feet of asbestos-contaminated debris had to be removed from the dump between October and December. All of the contaminated waste was barged to the Columbia Ridge dump in Arlington, Ore., Pavitt said.

The waste removed from the dump filled 30 shipping containers, he said.

Federal regulations require a thorough inspection of a facility for the presence of asbestos prior to any demolition activity. If a significant amount of asbestos is found, certified asbestos-abatement contractors are required to dispose of the material following specific guidelines designed to protect public health.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber which was used in building materials prior to the 1980s due to its fire-resistant properties.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.



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