CASPER, Wyo. — A stop-work order has left a pile of asbestos-laced rubble at the site of a former elementary school and delayed the demolition of another vacant elementary school, both in Rawlins. Meanwhile, accusations continue to fly.
The increasingly impatient Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality doesn't care who says what about whom. Spokesman Keith Guille said the asbestos should have been properly removed by May.
"That didn't happen," he said.
The issue involves several interests beyond the state DEQ, including:
* Englewood, Colo., general contractor Monarch Site Services.
* Westminster, Colo., subcontractor American Demolition.
* Carbon County School District 1.
* The city of Rawlins.
* Monarch Site Services hired American Demolition to raze the structure.
According to American Demolition attorney Michael Schlueter, nowhere in the contract was there a clause mandating that the company remove asbestos.
Before demolition, it was agreed that Monarch Site Services would remove all asbestos from the school before demolition, said American Demolition CEO Jake Olivas. He said Monarch Site Services never gave his company “actual notice” that asbestos remained in the area during demolition. Olivas said he received the proper permits to demolish the building, and it was "absolutely clear" that he wouldn't begin work until Monarch Site Services finished the asbestos removal. Monarch Site Services gave the green light even though asbestos was still in the structure, he said.
Monarch Site Services Vice President Chuck Bower said his company wasn't responsible for American Demolition’s mistakes. The company failed to demolish the building according to state regulations and specifications, he said.
“It’s in the hands of the attorneys and insurance companies,” Bower said.
Murray Wilkening, attorney for Monarch Site Services, declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Schlueter, the American Demolition attorney, said this week that the company plans to file a lawsuit soon.
Notices of violation
The state DEQ issued notices of violation to American Demolition and Monarch Site Services on Aug. 20. The notices claimed both companies were in violation of Wyoming air quality standards because asbestos flashing in the ceiling of Pershing Elementary wasn't properly removed before demolition. The notice states asbestos comingled with demolition debris and “all of the waste material would need to be considered regulated asbestos containing waste.”
Carbon County School District 1 hasn’t paid American Demolition for razing Pershing Elementary.
Olivas said the school district is hurting a small business, noting that Carbon County School District 1 owes the company more than $231,000 for demolishing Pershing Elementary in April.
Before demolition, both companies were aware that the building contained at least 3,000 square feet of flashing material containing 20 percent chrysotile asbestos, according to the DEQ notice.
The asbestos was considered unregulated material until the improper removal and demolition of the building, DEQ said.
Olivas said the job cost him $80,000 more than what was in the contract with Monarch Site Services. Part of the extra cost was the unexpected hauling of the asbestos material to different landfills and an unexpected removal of concrete.
Nineteen additional truckloads of concrete had to be hauled away because of foundation walls that weren’t in the speculative plans, Olivas said. The concrete went as deep as eight feet underground. The DEQ still considered it contaminated.
There’s no reason to call it contaminated, said Schlueter, the attorney. All of the above-grade, potentially contaminated materials at the site had been removed and taken to a dump in Larimer County, Colo., before the foundation concrete was excavated, demolished and removed by American Demolition, he said.
“That doesn’t matter because it all becomes regulated asbestos material,” said Guille of the DEQ.
Representatives from the district were required to monitor the work site, said Dave Horner, business manager for Carbon County School District 1. When city officials from Rawlins became aware that the concrete was going to the landfill in town, they issued a stop-work order. Olivas said representatives from the school district approved the measure to dump the concrete at a local landfill. Horner disagreed.
“We’re looking at all parties, including the (school district),” Guille said.
Olivas said American Demolition conducted tests to measure on-site contamination.
“There was a nondetect on every piece of dirt,” he said.
The city of Rawlins requested copies of the test results.
“They haven’t provided them to us,” said Amy Bach, director of community development for the city.
Wyoming DEQ and the school district also requested the test results. Neither has seen them, officials said.
American Demolition claims to have tested the concrete at the landfill in Rawlins as well. The results were clean, Olivas said.
At an impasse
Guille said the DEQ is working with American Demolition on reaching a settlement.
“There is no bargaining because American Demolition did nothing wrong,” Schlueter said.
Mountain View Elementary in Rawlins was also slated to be demolished. But the stop-work order and the legal disputes have the project's completion at an impasse. There are broken windows, overgrown grass and animals living inside the building.
A settlement between Monarch Site Services and American Demolition was close, but nothing came to pass, Schlueter and Olivas said.
There was a revised scope-of-work order by the two companies for demolition at Mountain View to begin. American Demolition said it would do the job after Monarch Site Services removed all of the asbestos. There was a provision granting American Demolition be paid for the additional expenses from the unexpected asbestos and concrete removal.
The city of Rawlins didn’t accept it, Olivas said.
Horner, with the school district, said Monarch Site Services has completed asbestos abatement at Mountain View. But the demolition won't start until its issues with American Demolition have been resolved, he said.