EPA settles with Eagle ski park developer over asbestos violation

Gateway Parks owner Ryan Neptune said that when he bought the abandoned Lazy J property in January 2014, he found a red-hot space heater running in a crawl space and dozens of bottles of prescription drugs.
Gateway Parks owner Ryan Neptune said that when he bought the abandoned Lazy J property in January 2014, he found a red-hot space heater running in a crawl space and dozens of bottles of prescription drugs. Statesman file photo

Gateway Parks LLC, a Boise ski and snowboard park developer, will pay a $10,000 fine to settle a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claim that it violated federal asbestos regulations.

The EPA alleged the company violated asbestos rules when it failed to notify the agency before asbestos-containing buildings were demolished at the former Lazy J Tavern near Eagle on Horseshoe Bend Road. Notification is required to give EPA inspectors an opportunity to check on buildings before demolition to make sure asbestos has been removed and to protect the public from exposure to harmful asbestos dust.

“EPA’s asbestos rules require building owners and contractors to notify the EPA in advance of demolition projects and to use certified professionals to remove asbestos before demolition,” said Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Pacific Northwest Office of Compliance and Enforcement, in a news release. “When you fail to follow those procedures, your job site can become contaminated and put public health at risk from asbestos exposure. In a misguided effort to save money, Gateway Parks cut corners and unfortunately turned a $14,000 demolition into a $75,000 mess. In the end, we know it’s far less expensive, and much safer, to do this work the right way the first time.”

Gateway Parks owner Ryan Neptune told the Statesman, “Although we completely disagree with the EPA in the case, it was simply cheaper to settle than to continue to argue with an albatross like the EPA. At the end of the day we are happy that the property is now certified, cleaned, clear and ready for development.”

Gateway bought the two-acre site adjacent to Eagle Sports Complex in January 2014. It planned to operate a snowboard and tubing park there. The site, abandoned and dilapidated, included nearly a dozen junked vehicles and piles of debris strewn among ramshackle buildings.

Gateway hired a consultant to inspect eight buildings for asbestos and to prepare for demolition. The consultant found asbestos in six of the buildings and submitted a bid for abatement. Gateway Parks did not accept the bid and demolished the buildings without first notifying the EPA. Because asbestos materials were left in the buildings during demolition, the resulting debris piles were contaminated with an unknown amount of asbestos, according to the EPA.

In response to a public complaint, the EPA began investigating and in April 2015 ordered Gateway to clean up asbestos-contaminated debris from buildings already demolished and to follow federal regulations for all pending building demolitions.

The company hired an asbestos abatement contractor, and the site was cleaned up May. About 27 truckloads containing 945 cubic yards of debris were hauled to the landfill where the EPA said it was properly discarded. The cleanup and disposal cost Gateway Parks more than $65,000, in addition to the federal penalty.

“This property had been a nuisance and a danger to the community for decades,” said Neptune, who has since relocated his snow park to Eagle Island State Park. “We thank the EPA and DEQ [Idaho Department of Environmental Quality] for working with Gateway to help clean up this public nuisance and see that it can become a wonderful new reconditioned property with spectacular views of the Foothills and Bogus Basin.”

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

More from the EPA on asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs naturally in rock and soil. It was formerly used in building materials and in construction for fireproofing and insulation. If inhaled, microscopic asbestos particles can lodge deep in the lungs, increasing risks of developing lung disease or cancer.

Asbestos fibers may be released into the air when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or during demolition work and building or home maintenance, repair or remodeling.

To protect public health, federal rules require that only trained and certified asbestos abatement professionals should handle, remove and safely dispose of asbestos containing materials in licensed landfills or other approved disposal facilities.