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Real estate developer settles lead and asbestos charges

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The U.S. Department of Labor has settled charges with a New York state real estate developer and management company related to exposure to lead and asbestos hazards for $700,000.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Wingdale, New York-based Olivet Management L.L.C., now known as Dover Greens L.L.C., in March 2014 for dozens of violations after the developer exposed its own employees and the employees of 13 contractors to lead and asbestos hazards during renovation and cleanup operations at the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Dover Plains, New York.

In October 2013, Dover Greens employees and contractors performed cleanup operations in preparation for a tour of the site by potential investors. The work, which was directed and overseen by Dover Greens supervisors, never included intentionally removing asbestos and lead-contaminated debris, according to company officials.

“Workers and their families were exposed to lead and asbestos and their attendant health hazards due to Olivet Management's failure to provide them with basic, required safeguards,” Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York, said in a statement. “This settlement obligates the company to do things correctly this time and take additional steps to ensure safe and healthful working conditions or face the full original fine of $2.3 million.”

The settlement requires Dover Greens to select and retain a general contractor experienced in a project of the type and magnitude of the Harlem Valley renovation and familiar with lead and asbestos hazards on a construction site, including how to control those and other hazards during the renovation, according to the agreement. It also requires that contractors whose employees may come in contact with lead or asbestos have documented training and experience in adhering to OSHA lead and asbestos standards and that the company not oppose workers comp claims by employees for illnesses resulting from lead or asbestos exposure, among other actions.

“The terms of the settlement are stringent and comprehensive,” Jeffrey Rogoff, the regional solicitor of labor in New York, said in a statement. “They seek to ensure that the company provides the project's employees with safe and healthful working conditions at all times. We are prepared to take appropriate action to escalate penalties should it fail to live up to its commitments.”

The settlement allows Dover Greens to pay $700,000 in fines over a 10-year period while the remaining balance of nearly $1.7 million originally proposed is held in abeyance and becomes payable immediately if the company fails to comply with the specific terms of the settlement.

“Dover Greens maintains that no construction or remediation efforts requiring permitting commenced during that time and that none of its cosmetic-related activities could reasonably expose any worker to harmful levels of any hazardous substance,” the company said in a statement. “Nevertheless, Dover Greens has settled with OSHA and has agreed to pay $700,000 as an investment to ensure future worker safety, including health and environmental awareness, for the restoration of the former state-owned facility.”