San Juan-based Aireko Construction — which will have to pay a $1.5 million fine after failing to comply with the asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants — expressed “disappointment” in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico’s decision, saying it is “excessive.”
Josen Rossi, CEO of Aireko Construction, said Thursday “We are a Puerto Rican company that for [more than] two generations has never been accused of environmental harm, which even the Judge noted, along with the fact that we raised the bar of our environmental procedures and protocols.”
The fine relates to a job Aireko sub-contracted a third party to do, which was to remove asbestos containing materials from the Minillas North Tower in Santurce in May 2012. The asbestos containing material was removed without following any of the Asbestos Work Practice Standards required by federal regulation, according to a statement released by the U.S. Justice Department.
A significant portion of the asbestos containing material was taken from the 9th floor and was placed in the trash area behind the building. Approximately 550 square feet of asbestos-containing stucco ceiling material was removed from the 9th floor, as this media outlet reported.
“Aireko Construction is not, and has never been, guilty of contamination nor putting people’s health at risk. As soon as Aireko Construction management discovered the mismanagement of the asbestos-containing material five years ago, we protected the workers, the public and the employees that work in the North Tower,” Rossi said.
“We also collaborated with the [Environmental Protection Agency], the [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and the client, investing more than $460,000 in clean up efforts and in conducting tests to ensure a safe environment in the building, for all,” he said.
Aireko “will evaluate the next steps to take — beyond our other commitments with the EPA and the court — in monitoring the health of employees and the public concerned for having been near the incident.
“At Aireko Construction we will continue to work with all of our private and government clients, as we have done for more than half a century, with the highest level of responsibility, professionalism and total compliance that defines us,” Rossi said.