DNR, city remain at odds on asbestos issue
In May, DNR referred the City of New London and Superior Excavation of Hurley, LLC, to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for violations of state statutes regarding control of asbestos emissions and solid waste facilities, alleged at the location of the former Simmons property. The DNR may seek to have the city fined for various alleged violations.
At the time, City Attorney Earl Luaders explained that a lawsuit that will decide who is responsible for cleaning up the asbestos at the former Simmons property is currently pending. The lawsuit is between the City of New London, developer Eric Spirtas, and Superior Excavation of Hurley, LLC. It was filed in Outagamie County and has been pending for the last seven months.
Karl Roovers, an environmental enforcement specialist with the DNR, said the referral and any subsequent forfeitures relate to concerns over roofing material that was not properly removed.
"The city took over the site and demolished the building. At that time, it appears that roofing material containing asbestos was run through some type of grinder. The material was then left on site," said Roovers. "We met with the city several months ago to discuss this, and we sent a letter to the city and Superior Excavation on Aug. 4, 2011. We then held an enforcement conference on Sept. 14, 2011. It is our belief that the city and contractor need to work together to get the site cleaned up.
"Any forfeitures as a result of this referral would be negotiated between the DOJ and the parties involved," stated Roovers. "We feel that this course of action is appropriate. The city and contractor are responsible for the asbestos contamination. The owner of the property is not responsible, as the owner was not in control of the property when the city did this work.
"The DNR has no comment on the pending lawsuit," continued Roovers. "Regardless of the outcome of the case, it doesn't change what our actions would be. The forfeitures are a penalty for non-compliance. The intent of any forfeiture is to get the city back in compliance-but we haven't seen any definitive steps towards that."
City Administrator Kent Hager disagrees with Roovers' statement, and said that the city has been the only entity involved that is working toward a just solution.
"The city has hired independent legal counsel to represent us as we continue to work to remedy this situation," said New London City Administrator Kent Hager. "We anticipate that action will be taken swiftly. We are not sitting on our laurels-we're taking the initiative and trying to get something accomplished."
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