Firms hit with $1.3 million asbestos fine

2007 Baltimore apartment conversion goes awry

May 07, 2010|By Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore property owner and a New York contractor have been fined a combined $1.3 million in what state officials say is the highest penalty ever levied for improper asbestos removal.

After a two-day trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court, Judge Stephen J. Sfekas imposed a fine of $115,500 against the owner of 2315 St. Paul St. and $1.2 million against Erie Vera LLC, a New York demolition contractor, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Acting on an anonymous tip, an MDE inspector in September 2007 found a large amount of improperly removed abestos in the six-story building, which was being converted to apartments. Some of it had been shoveled down a chute into an open dumpster outside, and none of the 15 to 20 workers there was wearing respirators or protective clothing. The state ordered the work halted, and about 7,500 bags of asbestos waste were ultilmately removed by another contractor licensed to handle asbestos.

Anthony Gorski, an Annapolis lawyer representing the building's owner, said his client — a limited liability corporation headed by Ali Farooq — did not know the contractor was removing asbestos. Gorski said records show the building had had an extensive asbestos removal in the early 1990s.

Erie Vera was fired once the problem was discovered, Gorski said, and has been impossible to locate since. No one from the company appeared in court for the trial, which concluded Wednesday, he said.

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