In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began an investigation into the way the Marco Island City Council and its contractor, Quality Engineering, handled miles of asbestos-cement pipe, or ACP, while widening and adding sewer lines along Collier Boulevard, the only road onto the island from the mainland and also known as Florida Highway 951.
According to the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), standards established by the EPA and revised in 1990, asbestos-cement products like water pipe need to be removed prior to demolition if the use of heavy equipment is anticipated, since such activity is likely to cause pipes to crumble, shred or otherwise break into tiny pieces, which could release asbestos fibers.
The EPA notes that – while each instance of asbestos-cement product handling should be treated on a case-by-case basis, at the operator’s discretion (depending on the type of equipment and demolition methods to be used), the approved procedure for ACPs (a Category II nonfriable) would be to remove them in a manner that does not cause damage and thus prevents the material from being reclassified as a regulated asbestos-containing material, or RACM.
When handled in this manner, the EPA adds, the pipes do not fall under NESHAP regulations and can be disposed of with other construction debris.
The 2006 investigation, which has successfully concluded with a settlement on the part of Marco Island officials and their designated contractor, in lieu of EPA formal enforcement, was begun in response to whistleblower and Marco Island residents Ed Foster and Mario Sanchez, the latter of whom filed suit against the EPA itself in 2009 for not releasing documentation that showed the ACPs were being crushed and then buried as the Collier Boulevard restoration, begun in 2005, proceeded.
Charges against Marco Island and its contractor include failing to inspect for asbestos prior to beginning work; failure to provide notification (of work) to the EPA’s Region 4 office and other relevant agencies; failure to adequately wet the ACP during demolition; failure to remove the ACP before crushing or breaking; failure to have an asbestos-handling certified individual on the company payroll and present during operations; and failure to dispose of the asbestos in a timely fashion.
Had Marco Island and its contractor been formally charged, fines would have been assessed at up to $37,500 per day. Fortunately for them, the EPA Chief of Chemical Products and Asbestos, Curt Fehn, requested a meeting on March 25 in lieu of a court date to arrive at the settlement.
The settlement is a sweetheart of a deal which has Quality Engineering agreeing to pay $81,772 within 30 days of EPA’s Pesticides and Toxics Management Division Director Kenneth Lapierre signing it, though approval by a federal judge is also essential.
The agreement also stipulates that the city will not have to pay separate fines, and neither the city nor the contractor will be required to accept any liability for future action or acknowledge their failure to abide by NESHAP rules. The asbestos debris itself has already been cleaned up, a process which occurred between May of 2007 and November of 2008.
Part of the agreement includes a statement by the EPA acknowledging that cleanup, especially in what has since become Veterans’ Community Park (where much of the debris ended up), has been performed according to Clean Air Act stipulations.
Sources: Marco News, Naples News