Proper asbestos removal procedures were not followed in the demolition of the centuries-old Conrad building in downtown Johnstown last year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
The decisions came after DEP and OEPA were made aware of asbestos concerns by Johnstown resident and former councilor Charlene Stanton, a Republican candidate in this year’s council elections.
The City of Johnstown, Steel Valley Contractors of Youngstown, Ohio, and CSI Construction Company of Verona, Allegheny County received fines.
On Wednesday, the city council voted to approve a settlement that would require Steel Valley to pay the city and company a $ 7,500 fine. Johnstown does not have to pay any part of the fine directly.
The penalty was that the building was not thoroughly inspected prior to demolition and that accurate and timely updates on the handling of asbestos materials were not provided.
Steel Valley was the general contractor. CSI was turned on to remove asbestos.
“The city was overseeing the project from a physical point of view,” said John Dubnansky, director of the Johnstown Community and Economic Development. “I was there when CSI was doing sampling and so on. The city had received the go-ahead from CSI that all paperwork would be submitted to the DEP for the demolition to proceed. It is for this reason that the demolition has been started and started so all of these errors that have occurred were due to the contractor that Steel Valley worked with, not us directly. “
Neither CSI nor Steel Valley immediately responded to requests for comment.
Johnstown, Steel Valley and CSI were also cited by the DEP for allowing bricks to pile up in the Stonycreek River during the demolition process. No fines were imposed for this violation, according to Dubnansky.
“Environmental concerns led me to lodge a complaint with DEP, which investigated, reported a violation and now imposed a civil penalty,” said Stanton. “It shows the city’s lack of accountability when it fails to abide by laws related to demolition and asbestos removal.”
Dubnansky said the city would be better off with the Conrad building gone, even with “those bumps in the street that sometimes come with demolition contracts.”
Stanton, who would like Steel Valley Contractors and CSI not to receive any work from the city in the future, said the city government was “ultimately responsible” for the contractors’ actions.
No asbestos screening was carried out prior to demolition as the demolition work was considered an emergency, despite a 2017 study that found numerous building materials containing asbestos, according to the DEP’s findings.
DEP noted that, with the exception of about 35 feet of friable asbestos-containing pipe insulation in the basement, “no building material was treated as asbestos-containing material during the demolition.” The agency ruled that CSI has not thoroughly examined the building for asbestos and has not released any updated guidance on the procedures.
CSI was fined $ 20,000 in May.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency stated that debris from the demolition “must be as regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM) in the absence of asbestos testing,” but it was not done until it was landfilled in an Ohio landfill.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.