Contact: Mark Sulzbach, 651-757-2770
Saint Paul, Minn. - The University of Minnesota has paid two $5,000 civil penalties and will complete a $50,000 supplemental environmental project as a result of asbestos violations at its Centennial Showboat and its Rosemount facility known as UMore Park. A stipulation agreement was executed between the University and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) on Jan. 22, 2009.
The University's fire-damaged Showboat had been dry-docked for renovation since about 1995. A third party salvaged the ship's hull during the University's ownership. On May 7, 2007 the MPCA inspected the Showboat in response to a complaint and documented approximately 45 cubic yards of dry, asbestos-containing material on the ground. The material was generated when the boat's boiler system was dismantled. The University failed to ensure that the material was kept adequately wet and therefore less likely to become airborne and inhaled. To comply with environmental regulations, the University should also have notified the MPCA prior to removing the asbestos-containing material and disposed of it as soon as was practical.
The 8,000-acre UMore Park site in Rosemount is a former U.S. government facility that once had more than 900 buildings on it. They were demolished before it was sold to the University. Some building debris was left behind including a building paneling material that contained asbestos. This asbestos-containing material can release asbestos fibers that become airborne if it is crumbled, pulverized or reduced to a powder. In September 2007, following a complaint, the MPCA inspected a few of the 170 acres of the site where heavy equipment had been removing trees and brush and discovered broken pieces of the asbestos-containing material in the soil and on concrete foundations. The University failed to have either a licensed asbestos-abatement contractor conduct the tree removal project, or have the asbestos-containing material removed before beginning the project.
As part of the MPCA agreement for a supplemental environmental project, theUniversity will provide $50,000 to support a study regarding Minnesota mining workers' health issues, which includes mesothelioma.
When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was a first time or repeat violation and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to company with environmental laws.
The MPCA offers outreach and training to help businesses comply with air quality rules and regulations. For more information on air quality standards and permits, visit the agency's Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us.
For a comprehensive list of enforcement actions by the MPCA, go to www.pca.state.mn.us/newscenter/enforcement.html.