A Minneapolis demolition company has paid a fine for sending clouds of dust into nearby businesses from the portion of a late-1800s Warehouse District building that excavators knew contained asbestos.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) on Tuesday announced payment of a $10,000 penalty by Ramsey Excavating for using improper procedures in the spring of 2013 to remove and contain the asbestos-holding materials while tearing down the 119-year-old building at 643 N. 5th St., down the street from Target Field.
Al Ramsey, president of the 15-year-old company, pointed out Wednesday that “it was not confirmed” that the dust actually contained asbestos. “The only thing that caused the fine was the visible emissions,” Ramsey added.
Sean O’Connor, who represented the MPCA during the visit, said it was not his duty to address whether the dust actually contained asbestos, adding that “there was no analytic sampling of the dust” conducted for the carcinogen.
MPCA spokeswoman Alexis Donath said, “We don’t know about the content of the dust that Sean observed.”
She added that it’s too late to do an analysis at this point: “The dust is gone.”
According to the MPCA, during the inspection on April 29 at the three-story site, where Northern Auto Parts had operated until 2009, O’Connor saw the dust generated during demolition coming from one area of the building and blowing into the adjoining street and neighboring businesses.
Before the demolition, which was to make way for high-density housing, Ramsey Excavating told the MPCA that asbestos-containing materials — such as pipe and boiler insulation — were in that area of the building.
Asbestos has long been known to be a carcinogen, in particular causing mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lung lining. The contractor was spraying water on to the debris with a single fire hose, but that was inadequate in preventing the dust from blowing away from the site, the MPCA said.
O’Connor also saw that a pile of debris that included asbestos-containing materials was not being processed for disposal in a timely manner. That pile had lingered for four days, the agency said.
In addition to paying the fine, Ramsey Excavating also agreed to use proper containment practices in the future and to manage asbestos-containing materials and debris in a timely manner.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482