Clearing the air
SHAMOKIN - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no plans to charge the city with any violations related to the demolition of two partially collapsed buildings on North Shamokin Street, according to an agency spokesman.
"The site has been remediated and asbestos hazards present as a result of the building collapse have been removed for proper disposal. The agency considers that the ultimate desired outcome has been achieved, protection of public health and the environment," Michael H. Frankel, communications coordinator, said by email Wednesday.
"Based on the current information, no further action is anticipated at this time," he said.
Two vacant commercial buildings at 709-715 N. Shamokin St. partially collapsed June 15. Demolition and debris removal continued for about two weeks, but the work stopped for four months when city officials and the project's original contractor, Robert Gusick Demolition, became embroiled in an unsettled dispute.
EPA launched an investigation in mid-October after suspicions of asbestos-containing material were raised, based largely on a positive test sample presented by city resident Matt Stevens.
Independent testing was commissioned on eight shared samples by both EPA and the city. They shared the same results, too - one sample out of eight tested positive for asbestos. EPA's confirmation of test results came Wednesday, more than two months after the city shared its results.
Despite being exposed for four months, another EPA spokesperson said previously that nearby residents and passersby were in no health risk.
EPA visited the demolition site at least six times while the cleanup progressed under a second contractor, Madonna Enterprises. The last inspection came Dec. 19, nearly two weeks after the firm finished working, and agency inspectors confirmed all debris was removed and disposed.
Frankel said National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants requirements were abided by both the city and Madonna Enterprises, as were "any requests made by the agency."
He was asked if there had been any violations filed or any violations pending against the city or anyone else connected to the demolition project. He would not give a definitive answer on whether or not the investigation is closed.
EPA requires that demolition of buildings with asbestos-containing materials be reported, and that a remediation expert be on site during demolition. Frankel was careful to say "it appears" neither of those two rules were initially followed when demolition began in June.
A remediation professional did work with Madonna Enterprises for its portion of the project.
City council voted Jan. 22 to use state grant funding to pay invoices totaling $101,973.45 to several firms for the clean up project.
Robert Gusick Demolition is seeking payment of a $98,500 invoice plus interest, and a lawsuit against the city is pending in county court.