November 27, 2012

State fines Wilton Recycling $7,500 for Forster Mill asbestos

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

WILTON -- Wilton Recycling will pay a $7,500 penalty to the state for the company's role in an asbestos hazard at the former Forster Mill, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

click image to enlarge

Asbestos-laden debris inside the former Forster Mill in Wilton before its cleanup, left, and after.

Contributed photo

The company's owner, Adam Mack, 38, said active demolition of the now-safe Depot Street site could begin at any time, whether or not he is incarcerated for unrelated charges.

Mack, who is a former Republican state representative for Standish, pleaded guilty in U.S District Court in Portland in October to misusing federal money. He has not yet been sentenced, but could spend up to five years in prison for the crime.

"The other stuff is still ongoing and whether I'm available to directly coordinate or not, I have other responsible people in place who will continue with the Wilton project," Mack said.

In Wilton, the lengthy enforcement process against Mack ends with the consent agreement he entered into with the department.

"The conclusion of this case is a win-win that proves DEP's enforcement process works," said Samantha Depoy-Warren, department spokeswoman, after announcing the agreement on Tuesday. "The responsible party was held accountable in a firm but fair way and more importantly, the eventual removal of asbestos from this site now allows for the redevelopment of this community cornerstone."

Demolition of the mill was halted in July 2011, when workers alerted federal officials to unsafe working conditions caused by the improper removal of insulation containing asbestos from pipes.

According to the consent agreement, no one inspected the site for the presence of asbestos before the demolition, a violation of department rules.

While cleaning up the remaining mess, an asbestos removal expert called it the worst asbestos site he's seen in Maine in 30 years.

The asbestos was removed safely in September, after more than a year of negotiation between the department and Mack.

Depoy-Warren said the resolution is an achievement for the department, the abatement contractor, the town of Wilton and to Mack, "for stepping up to make the site right, a positive action that's reflected in the reduced monetary penalty."

Under the consent agreement, which was signed by Mack in October, the company makes no admissions as to whether it violated the law. However, any future environmental violations would be considered repeat violations.

Mack said that he considered the agreement to be fair and that plans to demolish the front section of the building are in motion.

"If all goes well, the first part of the building will come down this winter," he said. "It could come down at any time."

He said that the main part of the building will likely be demolished in the spring.

While Mack's company owns the mill property, the botched demolition work was done by Downeast Construction, owned by Ryan Byther, a Scarborough contractor who was sentenced to six months in jail in May for an unrelated incident.

Depoy-Warren said the case against Byther remains open.

Before his employees reported the violations, Byther removed and sold piping worth an estimated $250,000 from the site. He was fined $154,200 earlier this year by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Mack said Byther will not be involved in the remainder of the demolition work.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

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