Former Automotive Warehouse in New Haven Receives 17 Asbestos Violations

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

A New Haven jobsite received 17 “serious” violations for allegedly failing to protect workers from exposure to asbestos. Last November, an employee complained to the New Haven Health Department about suspicious activity in an empty building. Senior Sanitarian Brian Wnek looked into the situation and visited the location.

“When officials went through the front, the crew working on the project went through the back door,” said New Haven Environmental Health Program Director Paul Kowalski. “Then, Wnek called the feds.”

The Occupational Heath and Safety Administration (OSHA) then investigated the situation and issued 17 “serious” asbestos violations in May to the site owner Rakaj Companies equating to about $65,000 in federal fines.

Asbestos exposure has affected many workers across America and a wide variety of industries. As a result, they’re now at risk of developing mesothelioma cancer. Despite knowledge of the health risks posed by asbestos, many companies still used the material for its fire- and heat-resistant properties. Handling asbestos must be done with great care and according to state and federal regulations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Connecticut State Department of Health Asbestos Program, and OSHA ensured the work ended based on the violations.

Some of these violations included failing to provide lunch areas with safe concentrations of asbestos, failing to regularly monitor the concentration of asbestos in the air, and failure to use vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters to collect dust that may contain asbestos.

Other violations covered failing to wet the jobsite to help minimize asbestos exposure during cleanup, removal, handling, and cutting; failing to provide protective respirators to employees; and failure to provide shower areas to employees so they could decontaminate themselves after exposure.

The principal of the 206 Wallace St. property Aleks Rakaj is affiliated with the jobsite not only as the principal, but also as a member of CT Repair Services (former automotive occupant of the warehouse) and as a member of Arka Group LLC at 220 Wallace St., which is an extension of 206 Wallace St.

The property was originally owned by Yale University, but Sawco Associates purchased it from the school in 2009 for $1,250,000. Sawco sold it in 2015 to 206 Wallace St. LLC for $285,000.

The land on the property is 85,533 square feet and the building is 42,995 square feet. According to records, the property is in a light zoning district and used as an industrial warehouse.

Rakaj contested the violations in June and the case is currently in court.