Landowner Fined for Asbestos Mismanagement

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a $23,704 penalty to Seven Lakes Development of Pendleton (OR), a limited liability corporation belonging to the Whitney Land Company, for alleged asbestos mismanagement at a property owned by the developer.

According to an article in the Eastern Oregonian, Tom Hack, the DEQ air quality specialist in the Pendleton area who investigated the site, said a complaint from an asbestos surveyor who was working in Pendleton alerted the DEQ to the possibility that contractor Hatley Construction was mishandling asbestos. Hack’s visit to the site prompted a report that said he found a number of violations. At that time, Hatley was fined a separate $17,000 for “conducting an asbestos-abatement project without being licensed” and for “openly accumulating improperly-labeled and packaged asbestos-containing waste material.”

Jim Whitney views the fines as unfair, especially since the DEQ had already fined contractor Hatley for the violations.

“I believe the DEQ is really overboard on what they’re trying to do with this situation … they’ve just really stretched this thing to think there was a problem when there wasn’t one,” Whitney said.

“Whitney explained that Seven Lakes hired Hatley Construction to remove residential buildings on a commercial lot,” says the article. “The buildings had asbestos siding and tile, but Whitney said residential and commercial buildings have different regulations for asbestos abatement,” it explains.

However, Bryan Smith, an environmental law specialist with the DEQ’s Office of Compliance & Enforcement in Portland, said “it would not matter if the buildings were residential in this situation. DEQ allows a homeowner to remove asbestos inside a house if the owner lives in the building. But once the owner brings the asbestos outside, or if the owner removes asbestos siding from a home’s exterior, then DEQ regulations apply.”

“It wouldn’t matter who you are if it’s on the outside of the house,” Smith affirmed.

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