Defendant Admits Violations and Accepts Responsibility in Consent Decree; Agrees to Injunctive Relief, including Medical Monitoring, and a $575,000 Penalty
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Peter Lopez, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), Region 2, announced today that the United States has filed a civil lawsuit against DOVER GREENS, LLC (“DOVER GREENS”), for violations of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) and EPA’s National Emissions Standards for Asbestos (“Asbestos NESHAP”) during renovation of the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Wingdale, New York (the “Campus”).
DOVER GREENS violated the CAA and Asbestos NESHAP when it failed to take the necessary precautions and follow the proper protocols pertaining to the removal, handling, and disposal of asbestos. The Asbestos NESHAP is designed to protect the public health by preventing exposure to airborne asbestos fibers during building demolition or renovations, waste packaging, transportation, and disposal.
Along with the lawsuit, the United States has filed a consent decree, agreed to by DOVER GREENS, that resolves the violations through payment of a $575,000 financial penalty and the imposition of injunctive relief, including a requirement that DOVER GREENS provide medical monitoring to individuals potentially exposed to airborne asbestos fibers as a result of these violations. The consent decree remains subject to Court approval.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Despite knowing that it was required to comply with asbestos safety regulations, Dover Greens conducted renovations in flagrant violation of those regulations, risking the health of members of the public and workers at the facility. The consent decree ensures that Dover Greens will protect people from asbestos exposure in its further work on the Campus and provides medical monitoring for individuals who may have been exposed to asbestos due to Dover Greens’ conduct. Also, by requiring Dover Greens to pay a substantial penalty, we have sent a strong message that this conduct will not be tolerated.”
EPA Regional Administrator Peter Lopez stated: “We are determined to protect public health and the environment. The Clean Air Act and EPA’s National Emissions Standards for Asbestos have been set in place to do just that. This settlement sends the important message that we will not allow groups or individuals to skirt the law and put people at risk.”
The complaint filed in Manhattan federal court today alleges that in October 2013, DOVER GREENS violated the CAA and Asbestos NESHAP when it rushed to renovate numerous buildings at the Campus (the “October 2013 Work”) in order to prepare the Campus to host a fundraiser. DOVER GREENS knew that its buildings contained asbestos and that asbestos work practice regulations must be followed. However, it repeatedly failed to comply with these regulations in its work. In particular, the complaint alleges that DOVER GREENS violated Asbestos NESHAP requirements to inspect the Campus properly and notify EPA before commencing renovation activities; to remove, store, and dispose of asbestos-containing materials safely; and to have a trained representative present during the renovation. As a result of its conduct, DOVER GREENS’ employees, contractors, and the individuals who attended this fundraiser faced an increased risk of asbestos exposure.
The complaint also alleges that during EPA’s investigation, DOVER GREENS failed to provide EPA access and information, as required by the CAA.
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In the consent decree lodged with the federal court today, DOVER GREENS admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility for the fact that it “failed to follow EPA regulations concerning asbestos when conducting the October 2013 Work.” DOVER GREENS further admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility for the following:
· DOVER GREENS failed to inspect the buildings at issue thoroughly for the presence of regulated asbestos-containing material (“RACM”) and notify EPA prior to commencing the October 2013 Work.
· DOVER GREENS failed to (a) ensure that all RACM was removed before beginning the renovation; (b) ensure that all RACM was adequately wetted before stripping it from buildings; and (c) ensure that all RACM remained wet until it was collected and contained for disposal.
· DOVER GREENS failed to seal all asbestos-containing materials in leak-tight containers while wet and failed to label containers or plastic bags containing RACM with proper warning labels and the name of the waste generator or the location at which waste was generated.
· DOVER GREENS failed to (a) dispose of asbestos waste at a proper disposal site; (b) ensure that properly marked vehicles were used to transport asbestos containing waste; (c) and maintain waste shipment records; and
· DOVER GREENS failed to have a trained representative present during the October 2013 Work.
· The October 2013 Work disturbed asbestos in numerous buildings, potentially exposing DOVER GREENS’ employees, contractors, and guests to asbestos.
· When EPA sought to investigate the October 2013 Work, DOVER GREENS failed to provide EPA inspectors with access to the Campus and failed to provide complete responses to EPA’s requests for information.
Pursuant to the consent decree, DOVER GREENS will pay a civil penalty of $575,000. The consent decree also requires DOVER GREENS to offer an initial asbestos medical surveillance exam and, if necessary, pay for ongoing medical surveillance for each individual who may have been exposed to asbestos as a result of the October 2013 Work. Further, DOVER GREENS agrees under the consent decree to conduct routine inspections of and, if necessary, repairs to all buildings on the Campus in order to prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the environment; ensure that warning signs are properly posted on Campus buildings; provide annual asbestos awareness training to DOVER GREENS’ maintenance employees; comply with a detailed Asbestos Operations & Maintenance Plan designed to minimize the potential for asbestos exposure to DOVER GREENS’ employees, building occupants, visitors, and workers; and comply in all respects with the CAA and Asbestos NESHAP when conducting asbestos abatement activity.
To provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment, the consent decree will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before it is submitted for the Court’s approval.
U.S. Attorney Berman thanked the attorneys and enforcement staff at EPA Region 2 for their critical work in this matter.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Bergman is in charge of the case.