U to pay $60,000 for asbestos violations

The violations occurred at two sites in 2007, but University officials deny responsibility.

The University of Minnesota has agreed to pay $60,000 in penalties for two asbestos violations, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials said Thursday, even though school officials deny responsibility for the violations. The UniversityâÄôs General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said University officials disagree there were any violations, but agreed to pay the fine because they âÄúdidnâÄôt think it was worth arguing about any further.âÄù As part of the agreement reached between the University and the MPCA, the University will pay two $5,000 fines , one for each violation uncovered in 2007 at the Centennial Showboat in St. Paul and UMore Park in Rosemount. The University has also agreed to give $50,000 to an environmental project that will support on-campus research related to asbestos issues. Money to pay the fines will come out of the UniversityâÄôs general fund, Rotenberg said. The violation at the Centennial Showboat, which is dry-docked in St. Paul and serves as a theater venue for University students, involved 45 cubic yards of asbestos left over from the dismantling of a boiler. Over the course of last summer, more than 13,000 people attended performances at the Showboat, spokeswoman Jennie Germain said. When the boiler was taken apart, the asbestos wasnâÄôt properly disposed and dried out, increasing the chance of asbestos fibers becoming airborne, Derek Pemble, pollution control specialist in the asbestos and demolition program at the MPCA, said. Rotenberg said the boiler was dismantled as part of an effort by the landowner to salvage the boat. The landowner hired a specialist to make sure the ship complied with asbestos regulations, and the specialist found the ship to be in compliance, Rotenberg said. âÄúThe subcontractor who provided the certificate that he was an asbestos abatement expert simply didnâÄôt do a good job,âÄù Rotenberg said. âÄúIt was our boat, so we agreed to pay the $5,000 fine.âÄù UMore ParkâÄôs violation stemmed from asbestos panels left from buildings demolished in the 1940s. During recent removal of trees and brush from the 8,000-acre research site, some panels were crushed, resulting in a possible airborne release of asbestos fibers, Pemble said. The University contests that asbestos from the site became airborne, Rotenberg said, something Pemble admitted âÄúis hard to prove.âÄù Rotenberg said both sites have been cleaned up and noted that the University having to pay fines for environmental violations is âÄúquite rare.âÄù