Sunday, May 26, 2013
By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling email@example.com
WILTON — A Depot Street site, called the worst asbestos hazard in the state last month, has been largely cleaned up and is scheduled for a final inspection by state officials today.
Asbestos-laden debris inside the former Forster Mill in Wilton before the cleanup, left, and after.
Maine Department of Environmental Protection photo
The man who owns the building and the contractor that created the safety hazard both will face fines from enforcement agencies.
Since July 2011, when employees of contractor Ryan Blyther, of Scarborough, first reported unsafe working conditions to the federal government, the former Forster Mill has been the subject of enforcement efforts from Maine's Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Department spokeswoman Samantha Depoy-Warren said enforcement team members were jubilant when they reviewed before and after photos of the site.
"We're all just beaming," she said. "This is why we do the work we do. This is the sort of outcome that we hope for."
Before he was incarcerated on an unrelated charge, Blyther recovered and sold an estimated quarter-million dollars worth of pipe from the mill; in the process, the asbestos-laden insulation sheathing on the piping was torn off and scattered throughout the building. Blyther also has been fined $154,200 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace safety violations.
Asbestos fibers are known to cause cancer when they are inhaled and lodge themselves in the lungs; the volume of the material, some of which had been ground into a chalky dust, led Bob Rickett of Abatement Professionals to call it the worst site he'd seen in 30 years of asbestos remediation.
Initial cleanup efforts stalled in August 2011, when Rickett stopped work at the site because his company was owed more than $75,000 by building owner Adam Mack for work completed to that point. Rickett returned to the site in July to complete the work.
Depoy-Warren said the ups and downs of the enforcement effort made the outcome uncertain.
"Two months ago, none of us would have put money on the table that this was going to happen," she said.
Mack, a former Republican state representative from Standish, has maintained that he intended to pay for the cleanup all along but that getting financing in place has taken time. Mack said he intends to demolish the building and use the value of the wood inside to pay for the cleanup.
Asbestos is still present in a boiler building that stands apart from the mill's main structure, but Blyther didn't disturb it, so it doesn't constitute an immediate threat to public safety, according to Depoy-Warren.
Mack said he'll address the boiler room after he has taken most of the mill down.
The building's roof has not been tested yet to see whether it contains asbestos, but Depoy-Warren said the department will ensure that Mack disposes of it properly.
If today's final inspection goes as planned, the department will move forward with the next stage of its enforcement process by negotiating consent agreements with Mack and Blyther that determine financial penalties.
Depoy-Warren said Mack's fines probably will be lower than Blyther's.
"It will reflect well on Mr. Mack that he did ultimately step up and take responsibility. There is credit due for finally doing what's right for the community," Depoy-Warren said.