An Iowa County judge has assessed an $80,000 civil penalty against a West Des Moines business and its owner for violating state asbestos disposal laws in the demolition of a Williamsburg truck stop.
Iowa District Court Judge Paul Miller on Monday fined Jai Santoshi Ma Inc. and its owner, Bhupen Patel of West Des Moines, for environmental violations during and after demolition of the former Middle America Truck Stop.
Jai Santoshi Ma owns the property at 120 Hawkeye Dr. in Williamsburg.
According to a petition filed in April 2013 by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, Patel and Jai Santoshi Ma arranged to demolish the truck stop in May and June of 2012. Before beginning the demolition, the petition claims Patel and Jai Santoshi Ma failed to inspect for asbestos and notify the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
On May 25, 2012, a DNR field office received a telephone complaint alleging Patel began demolishing a building without conducting an asbestos inspection and was planning to bury the waste on site. On May 30, Jim Kacer, a DNR environmental specialist, investigated the complaint and met with Ken Odom, the contractor hired by Patel to demolish the building.
Kacer told Odom that the demolition waste may contain asbestos and could not be buried at that location. Odom was told to stop the demolition until an asbestos inspection was conducted and the results were sent to DNR.
On May 31, Kacer called Patel and told him that the demolition needed to stop until the asbestos inspection was completed and a report made to DNR. Patel also was told that the demolition waste could not be buried on the site.
Patel told Kacer that he did not intend to bury the waste on site. He also told Kacer that he had contacted an environmental consultant, Gaylen Hiesterman of Waterloo, an operations manager with ATC Associates of New York, for assistance with the demolition.
On June 1, 2012, DNR issued a notice of violation to Patel ordering a halt to the demolition until the building and debris were checked for asbestos. Patel was ordered to notify the DNR if asbestos was found and to dispose of it properly by alerting the Iowa County Landfill that the debris contained asbestos.
On June 4, 2012, John Avery, Williamsburg public works director, called the DNR to report the above ground portion of the former truck stop had been demolished over the previous weekend. On June 12, 2012, Hiesterman told DNR representatives that some of the demolition debris had been taken off site for disposal and some had been buried on site.
Hiesterman also told the DNR that several samples he took on June 1, 2012, had tested positive for asbestos.
On June 14, 2012, Kacer and DNR Environmental Specialist Brian Lee inspected the site and witnessed clouds of dust being blown from the ground as well as piles of demolition debris. Kacer and Lee also saw demolition waste deposited in a pit dug on the site.
Kacer met Odom hauling metal waste from the site and told him that it was contaminated with asbestos. Odom claimed that Patel had not told him of the contamination or ordered him to stop the demolition work.
On June 15, 2012, Kacer spoke with Ron Cox of Cox Sanitation, who had hauled eight loads, or 51 tons, of demolition waste to the Iowa County Landfill. Cox was not told it was waste containing asbestos and said it was accepted as regular waste.
Kacer continued to check the site over the next two months and saw debris with asbestos remaining dry and exposed to the wind. Patel was notified that the site was a public health hazard and access needed to be limited and signs posted immediately.
In July 2012, Kelly Demolition of Mount Vernon was hired to fence off the site, post the warning signs, wet down the piles of asbestos-containing debris and properly dispose of all the debris. DNR notified Patel that he was in violation of state law regarding the remediation of soil contaminated with petroleum at the former truck stop.
On March 13, 2013, Kacer conducted a follow-up inspection and met with the manager of a hotel at the site. Kacer was told that Patel intended to demolish to mobile home trailers located on the site.
Kacer told the hotel manager that the mobile homes would need to be inspected for asbestos before they were demolished. On March 26, the DNR received a complaint that the mobile homes were being demolished without any asbestos inspection.
Kacer spoke with the hotel manager, who told the workers to stop the demolition. On April 9, the DNR received a complaint that the demolition of the mobile homes continued and Kacer confirmed it the same day.
On April 12, 2013, the DNR issued another notice of violation to Jai Santoshi Ma for demolishing the mobile homes without first inspecting them for asbestos.
In addition to the $80,000 civil penalty, Judge Miller on Monday ordered Patel and Jai Santoshi Ma to comply with all state laws and regulations regarding the proper treatment and disposal of asbestos-contaminated debris.
Attempts to reach Bhupen Patel by phone for comment were not successful.