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Medford Estates contractor fined for asbestos violations

A Florida-based company has been fined more than $74,000 for improperly sending asbestos-tainted debris to a Southern Oregon landfill.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality describes the violations as “major magnitude violations,” but said the problems have since been “properly abated and removed” with the aid of a DEQ-licensed subcontractor.

Oregon DEQ fined BACH Land Development, LLC $74,469 for improperly clearing a dozen manufactured home sites containing asbestos between late November and early December and “conducting an unlicensed asbestos abatement project” at Medford Estates, in the 3500 block of South Pacific Highway, according to a certified letter from the DEQ dated March 12.

The company has until April 4 to contest the fine. (Corrected)

BACH Land Development “is not, and has never been licensed by DEQ as an asbestos abatement contractor,” according to five-page findings of fact surrounding the improper cleanups at 12 sites before staff at the Dry Creek Landfill refused the company’s loads Dec. 7 due to improper documentation that failed to state whether it contained asbestos.

The Almeda fire severely damaged roughly two thirds of the 245 mobile home lots plus a common building at Medford Estates, which is owned by Cal-Am Properties. A national operations manager for Cal-Am Properties did not respond to requests for comment by phone or email Wednesday.

The refusal by the landfill prompted DEQ inspections Dec. 9 and 16 at Medford Estates. There, investigators determined that BACH Land Development improperly removed about 6,000 square feet of wildfire debris from 12 lots, and that by placing the debris in large totes it “had the potential to release asbestos fibers into the air.”

By Dec. 17, the contractor had properly sealed all involved piles of debris containing asbestos with 6 mil plastic, and by late January had hired DEQ licensed subcontractor Asbestos Control Group to mark and properly dispose of all involved debris, according to DEQ, and that ACG had removed all debris containing asbestos from Medford Estates by Jan. 26.

The state described BACH Land Development’s “performing an asbestos abatement project without being licensed” and failure to notify Dry Creek Landfill staff of the type and volume of asbestos-containing waste material as a “Class I, major magnitude violations.”

The state alleges that BACH Land Development was trying to save about $47,000 by clearing the asbestos-containing wildfire debris from the 12 sites involved. In contrast, hiring a licensed DEQ contractor, which BACH Land Development later did, is estimated at $65,400 for the dozen sites involved in the complaint.

The state said it factored in the company’s efforts to mitigate the violation, but noted that BACH Land Development “only hired ACG to label the asbestos-containing waste material once it was loaded, and certify the lots as clean.”

BACH Land Development has had no prior violations, according to DEQ.

The state temporarily granted variances from certain asbestos-related rules in areas affected by wildfire last fall, but the only exception to requirements for asbestos abatement projects requiring a DEQ licensed contractor were residential property owners of four dwelling units or fewer “doing their own cleanup with no paid labor.”

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the wrong date that BACH Land Development has to contest the fine. An Oregon Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson states that the company has until April 4 to respond.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Medford Estates is in the process of rebuilding Wednesday after the Almeda fire. Oregon DEQ fined BACH Land Development, LLC $74,469 for improperly clearing a dozen manufactured home sites containing asbestos between late November and early December and “conducting an unlicensed asbestos abatement project” at Medford Estates, in the 3500 block of South Pacific Highway, according to a certified letter from the DEQ dated March 12.