STEUBENVILLE - A Mahoning County businessman was ordered to pay an $850,000 civil penalty for the improper demolition of the former Weirton Steel Corp. Steubenville plant.
The order filed last week by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph J. Bruzzese Jr. ordered David Sugar Excavating, Honey Creek Contracting Inc., Excavating Technologies Inc., ADS Leasing and Arthur David Sugar Sr. to pay a civil penalty of $850,000.
The ruling stems from a two-day bench trial held in the common pleas court in 2012.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency filed a lawsuit against Sugar and his companies in 2010.
Bruzzese said in his court order Sugar is personally liable because of his own personal conduct.
"Sugar was the sole decision-maker for all of his companies. When action was taken, it was because he ordered that it be taken, and when it was not taken, it was because he failed to order it. He is liable not because he owned the company but because he made the decisions and gave the orders," continued Bruzzese.
Bruzzese also stated in his ruling that demolition work began in 2004, "and was conducted in a cavalier disregard of the asbestos present. Workers did not have protective gear and asbestos from pipes and other installations was scattered everywhere.
"Massive amounts of asbestos were being disturbed and allowed to float in the air. Some was dumped in pits but all or most all was mishandled. Friable asbestos was strewn everywhere. At one point it was described as if a snowstorm had occurred," cited Bruzzese.
Bruzzese also noted numerous EPA inspections found violations on a grand scale.
"These are not paperwork violations or picky little details. These were serious and meaningful violations that were continuous in nature causing serious health hazards to motorists, boaters, employees of the adjoining facility, general members of the public and Sugar's own employees. So intense and widespread were the numerous violations that the Ohio EPA declared an asbestos public emergency on several occasions," Bruzzese said in his court order.
Sugar and the Ohio EPA reached an agreement for preliminary injunction in 2010 regarding cleanup of the site. In 2011, Sugar and Honey Creek pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy and four counts of violating the Clean Air Act rules related to the proper removal and handling of asbestos.
Sugar purchased the former Weirton Steel site in 2005.
Sugar and his construction company, Honey Creek Contracting Co., in April 2010 pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Columbus to conspiracy and four counts of violating the Clean Air Act rules related to the improper removal and handling of asbestos in connection with work at the former Weirton Steel plant.
Sugar personally was fined $10,000 and the company was fined $50,000 by the federal court.
The civil lawsuit filed in the common pleas court said Sugar and his companies failed to provide written notice to the Ohio EPA on days that parts of the facility were demolished.
Gossett is a reporter with the Herald-Star in Steubenville.