Several Parties Fined in Hotel Renovation Asbestos Debacle
Three different companies involved in the renovation of the century-old Otis Hotel in downtown Spokane, Washington are being charged with asbestos violations that likely caused workers to be exposed to dangerous asbestos.
The first company cited by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry is Portland-based Hos and Boz LLC, which is owned by Curtis Rystadt, who bought the 107-year-old hotel last year for $1.4 million.
That company was fined $24,500 for eight “serious” and three “general” violations of worker safety rules, as well as $45,000 for 16 “serious” violations of state rules regulating hazardous materials.
A second company, Santiago’s Handyman Services of Oregon, was hit with the same fines as Rystadt’s company, totaling $69,500. A third company, 4 Aces Restoration, based in Kent, Washington, received a $200 fine for not informing the state of when it would be handling asbestos, reports an article in The Spokesman-Review.
Both Rystadt’s and Santiago’s companies also face additional fines from the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. Those fines will be calculated at a later date and will likely be disputed by the two men as well, since they do not believe that they did anything wrong.
Rystadt, in particular, denies any wrongdoing and claims that he has “documentation” to prove that he is not responsible for what happened. Instead, he told the press that he blames “incompetency” and “bureaucracy” for failing to recognize he’s done nothing wrong.
“First of all, I’m not an employer. I don’t employ anybody,” Rystadt said, pointing out two violations that use the word “employee.”
“They were not my employees,” he said. “Even though I’m not the employer and I’m not responsible for that stuff, I do not want people working in unsafe conditions.”
Rystadt also claims that the company he hired – 4 Aces Restoration – was supposed to take care of the disposal of the hazardous material, and he figured they were following the rules and did not check on them.
He said he spent more than $50,000 on disposal and that the company came to the site numerous times to pick up asbestos-containing trash. He claims that employees from that company wore the proper gear.
However, as is typical with those who skirt the rules, he blamed the debacle on someone else. Rystadt called an inspector from the Department of Ecology a “bonehead” and claims he and others from various agencies were “incompetent” and shouldn’t have issued the citations against him.
Inspectors note, however, that when they arrived at the Otis to carry out their duties, there were two open dumpsters on site that contained asbestos and debris inside the building also tested positive for the hazard.
As to whether locals were exposed to the material, a spokesperson for the local air agency said she doesn’t think so, unless they went rummaging through the dumpsters.
The employees, on the other hand, could definitely have been exposed, and how they proceed in this case – including whether or not they will file a suit against Rystadt – remains to be seen.