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Officials in the Vermont Department of Health are seeking to force the property owner of a dress factory in the City of Rutland to clean up asbestos found at the site. They are also looking to hand out a penalty of $10,000 to the land developer, John Ruggiero, for violating Vermont asbestos regulations and repay the state for costs incurred.
Asbestos refers to six naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have the ability to resist heat, fire, and electricity. Although the fibers are microscopic in nature, they are extremely durable and resistant to fire and most chemical reaction breakdowns.
The properties of asbestos supported its use for years in a number of different commercial and industrial settings such as dress factories. Although its use has diminished in recent decades, there are still many products that contain asbestos, especially in older homes, schools, and public buildings.
In 2012, Ruggiero was ordered by the city to demolish the collapsing portion of the vacant building. He was required to obtain any needed permits, including one for asbestos because it had been previously identified in the building.
Vermont regulations also required Ruggiero to have a certified asbestos inspection take place 10 days before the demolition, which he failed to follow through on.
From 1999 to 2015, 91 Vermont residents died from mesothelioma. Despite this low number of deaths, Vermont has a mesothelioma mortality rate slightly higher than the national average at nearly nine people per million annually. The state has 22 known asbestos sites, including three former mines.
If you have worked and lived in Vermont for a significant amount of time, there is a chance you were exposed to asbestos at home or in the workplace. Some factory positions are more at risk than others, meaning these types of occupations are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
In 2014, it was discovered that Ruggiero had applied to store the debris on-site. The Agency of Natural Resources brought this to the state’s attention. At that time, the Department of Health sent its own inspector who found asbestos in the debris. One sample was five times the regulatory maximum level.
Following the state inspector’s visit, Ruggiero hired an asbestos abatement contractor who submitted a cleanup plan. He received a permit to cleanup in March, but he didn't move forward. Then the permit expired in May.
Ruggiero was recently in court being fined $1.8 million for cleanup at another one of his properties, the former Fillipo’s Dry Cleaners on Woodstock Avenue in Rutland.