Asbestos News: University’s Management Company Puts Public and Workforce at Risk

by Sokolove Law

Recent developments at Olivet University’s proposed technical and research facility in Dover, New York, reveal that the university’s management company put its own workers, as well as its contractors and nearby residents, at risk of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is known to cause serious diseases, such as mesothelioma, a deadly cancer.  There is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

Olivet Refused Access to Federal and State Inspectors

On November 1, 2013, inspectors from the state of New York, as well as federal inspectors from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), first attempted to inspect the site. Olivet University’s management company, Olivet Management LLC, refused them access for 3 days. The inspectors finally gained access to the Olivet Center and found 6 buildings already under renovation. Large quantities of asbestos were discovered in a number of the buildings.

University’s Management Company Fined $2.3 Million for Violating Clean Air Act and Worker Safety Laws

According to a statement from U. S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez issued April 2, Olivet Management will face over $2.3 million in fines for violating the Clean Air Act and worker health and safety laws at the Olivet Center. Olivet Management failed to secure the proper permits, and to follow procedures determining whether asbestos was present and for asbestos abatement in renovating the facility, as is required by the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the EPA’s Asbestos National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). 
Olivet was cited by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for 45 “willful violations” of worker safety rules and one “serious” violation (defined as one where ”death or serious physical harm could result”). According to the statement, “OSHA determined that Olivet knowingly failed to take basic safety precautions. The company neither informed their own employees nor the contractors about the presence of asbestos and lead, despite knowing that both hazards existed.” Olivet has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, with mandatory site visits to ensure compliance. 

EPA Halts Work at Site

The EPA ordered a halt to renovations at the site until an approved abatement plan can be put in place. “Asbestos can cause serious health problems and must be handled properly to protect people’s health,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “By stopping work at The Olivet Center, EPA has taken action to protect the health of workers at the site and nearby residents.”

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