Air District fined Lennar half a million dollars last month

by Sarah Phelan

In a surprise revelation, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District mentioned yesterday that it had reached a $515,000 settlement with Lennar over the developer’s failure to monitor and control asbestos dust at Hunters Point Shipyard.

BAAQMD executive director Jack Broadment brought up the settlement, which was dated August 8 and allegedly finalized in early September, during the air district’s October 1 board meeting.

Broadbent’s stunning revelation occured after Bay View Hunters Point residents asked the air district to address their concerns around Lennar’s repeated asbestos dust violations in their community.

Broadbent’s annoucement shocked the BVHP residents, who had showed up at the meeting. They countered that the amount was too little and too late.

An October 2 Air District press release claims the settlement is the “largest of its kind in California.”

“Our Air District team negotiated an appropriate penalty based on the circumstances of the case,” Broadbent stated in the press release. “This settlement will deter the kind of conduct Lennar engaged in that led to these violations.”

Air District spokesperson Lisa Fasano told the Guardian that the $515,000 fine is “the biggest fine for a dust violation in the Bay Area air district.”

Fasano said that the biggest penalty that the district has imposed in recent years was the $2.8 million fine against Shell for exceeding emissions limits at its Martinez facility.

Asked how the Air District arrived at the $515,000 figure Fasano said it was a “negogiated number.”

“There were three basic violations involved,” Fasano told the Guardian. “Failing to maintain air monitoring systems appropriately; failing to maintain wash stations properly and failing to contain properly what they were receiving from those wash stations.”

Lennar was supposed to monitor asbestos dust at the site and make sure that vehicles leaving the site were washed down properly, so that the dust wouldn’t get tracked out.

The developer entered into a detailed asbestos dust mitigation plan with the Air District in 2005 and made power point presentations in the community to reassure residents that they would be protected from naturally occurring asbestos, a known carcinogen, while Lennar graded an entire hillside to build a 1,600-unit condominium complex.

But though monitoring was supposed to begin in July 2005, Lennar’s negligence means there is no evidence of what the asbestos dust levels at the site were until September 2006. That was three months after intense grading began directly adjacent to a local k-12 school, where children played and studied, with only a chain link fence separating them from Lennar’s machinery.

Fasana said the Air District and Lennar negotiated the penalty based on the type, duration and negligence of the violations.

Fasano told us that the settlement was completed by the end of August, but had not been mentioned before, because there had not been a Board meeting since the settlement was made. The Board’s last meeting was July 30.

“The matter came up because folks from Bay View Hunters Point brought it up during public comment, ” Fasano said. “It was going to be mentioned in the Executive director’s report to the Board.”