Village leader fined for asbestos removal
Thomas Nolter, owner of Nolter Construction and Ocean Beach's deputy mayor, was the lead contractor to renovate The Palms Bungalows hotel in the Fire Island village. The state Labor Department received a complaint from a neighbor in February that Nolter's workers were removing asbestos from the building without the proper equipment and certification.
"It's something that the department takes very seriously when it comes to contractors removing asbestos that are not licensed," said state Labor Department spokesman Leo Rosales. While the initial fine was issued in late February, Nolter appealed, a process that ended in late August with the citation being upheld, Rosales said.
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Reached on his cellphone last week, Nolter refused to comment on the violation.
Department officials said Nolter has until the end of the month to pay the fine. Once it is paid, he will be eligible to pursue state certification in asbestos removal, Rosales said, adding that this was Nolter's first violation with the department.
According to documents from the investigation, "sample analysis found the siding shingles and the linoleum to contain more than 1 percent asbestos." Disturbing asbestos without the proper equipment and training can result in inhalation of the dangerous fibers, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can result in significant health concerns, including lung disease.
"When you're licensed in New York State, that means you have all the training required and all the certification required to know how to remove asbestos safely," Rosales said. "We don't know exactly what kind of exposures may have happened" to the workers on Nolter's site. Rosales said no workers have approached or complained to the Labor Department.
The Palms Bungalows owner Chris Mercagliano could also face a violation -- according to the Labor Department, property owners are required to hire licensed contractors for jobs that require removing asbestos.
Ocean Beach village clerk-treasurer Steven Brautigam said the matter is out of the village's purview, so the village will not penalize Nolter's company. He said the violation does not represent a conflict of interest for Nolter as both a businessman in the village and an elected official.
"The village cannot take any action because it's not under our jurisdiction," Brautigam said. Former Ocean Beach building inspector Jerry Driscoll said Nolter has a history of non-compliance. Driscoll, who resigned in August 2011, said he issued Nolter multiple violations on another project between May and August 2011.