The company which demolished Pensacola’s historic John Sunday House over the weekend has been cited by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for possible violations in the way asbestos has been handled.
Maverick Demolition razed the 115-year-old house, located in The Tanyard, a historically African-American neighborhood located just west of downtown Pensacola. While the house was in a protected review district, developer Charles Liberis managed to bypass the city’s historic preservation process through a legal maneuver.
FDEP officials sent a “warning letter” to Maverick this week after conducting an inspection of the site and finding possible violations.
The Sunday House demolition was not exempt from federal and state rules which dictate how asbestos is handled, FDEP officials said, including rules which require contractors to file advance notice of demolitions involving asbestos. No such advance notice was filed by Maverick before beginning the demolition on Saturday.
“Debris from the demolition was still at the site and left dry and exposed to the outside elements without adequate emission control,” wrote FDEP inspectors.
County records show asbestos was present in both the Sunday House and an adjoining carriage house located at 25 South Reus Street, which was demolished at the same time. Clearly labeled packages of Eternit asbestos cement singles were photographed amongst the debris; those photos were later provided to FDEP investigators.
Pensacola resident Teresa Hill, who filed the complaint with FDEP which led to the inspection, said that she’s concerned about the potential health effects of the fine white dust that was released during the house’s demolition. “The dust clouds during demolition were quite shocking,” said Hill. “I’m concerned because this was done on one of the busiest shopping days at the organic store fifty yards away, with a northerly wind, exposing hundreds of shoppers.”
Prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Once common, the use of asbestos in building materials and other products has been sharply limited since the 1970s.
Depending on the result of FDEP’s investigation, Maverick could face thousands of dollars in fines for both the asbestos issues and their failure to file advance notice of the demolition.
“At this point, our first priority is to ensure that the debris at the site is properly handled from this point on,” said Brandy M. Smith, external affairs manager for FDEP’s Northwest District. “Our compliance staff has been in communication with Maverick and [they] have been told that a licensed asbestos consultant has been hired to conduct a survey of the site and advise Maverick as to proper handling of the debris. Once the department has all the facts we will determine what if any enforcement actions are necessary.”
Read FDEP’s letter to Maverick Demolition: