Real estate development and management company Dover Greens, has settled with OSHA for $700k in asbestos fines resulting from work performed at the Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Dover Plains. The developer exposed its own employees as well as employees of 13 contractors to lead and asbestos during renovation and cleanup of the center.
“OSHA settlements are not simply a matter of paying a penalty,” said U.S. Department of Labor spokesman, Ted Fitzgerald. “OSHA is always seeking for the employer to take steps to prevent the same types of hazards from occurring in the future.”
The fines must be paid out over 10 years and the settlement also included that Dover Greens provide and maintain enhanced safeguards for workers renovating the building.
“The purpose of this is that it will enhance the comprehensive safeguards the company has agreed to put in place, [which] are designed to minimize or eliminate hazards to workers, and that’s what we want. We have cited them for previous violations. We want to do the job correctly going forward as they have committed themselves to doing,” said Fitzgerald.
Dover Greens was originally cited for numerous violations under its former name, Olivet Management LCC, on March 31, 2014 for failing to take preventative measures. These included air sampling, respiratory protection, and dust control.
The employees who were exposed to asbestos are now at risk for long-term respiratory health issues, including mesothelioma cancer. Mesothelioma can potentially develop if asbestos is inhaled and the microscopic fibers become lodged in the lungs. Asbestos can cause inflammation in the lung tissue, resulting in harmful scar tissue forming on the surface. This scar tissue lays the foundation for cancerous cells to develop.
The balance of the fine is more than $1.6 million held and would become payable right away if Dover Greens doesn’t comply with all the requirements of the settlement.
“We are pleased to invest in future workers’ health and safety through this settlement, which will be paid out over the next 10 years,” said Dover Greens spokesman, Terence Michos. “Thankfully, we see no further obstacles to unlocking the potential of this project for the entire Dover community.”
Dover Greens made a public news release on Monday saying the work, “which was directed and overseen by Dover Greens supervisors, never included intentionally removing asbestos and lead-contaminated debris. Company officials maintain that no construction or remediation efforts requiring permitting commenced during that time.”
The release also stated that “none of its cosmetic-related activities could reasonably expose any worker to harmful levels of any hazardous substance.”
The former psychiatric center property is still in the works to becoming Olivet University and offer courses approved by the State Education Department.