State sues Rutland man again over new property cleanup

Demolition debris fills a cellar hole at the former Linda Lee dress factory in Rutland. The state has sued the property’s owners to force the removal of the debris, which it says contains the hazardous material asbestos. Photo by Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
RUTLAND — A Rutland businessman who was recently ordered to pay the state up to $1.8 million for the emergency cleanup of one of his properties is named in a new state action seeking to force the cleanup of another site in the city.

The state Department of Health last month sued in Rutland Superior Court, asking a judge to order the removal of demolition debris that contains the hazardous material asbestos at the former Linda Lee dress factory.

The filing states that a 2½-story wood-framed portion of the former manufacturing facility at 10 Cleveland Ave. was demolished without providing proper notice to the state and without having an asbestos assessment done. The demolition debris remains on the site, according to the state’s complaint.

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Vincent is representing the state. The defendants are identified as 10 Cleveland LLC and John Ruggiero, who is listed as the “member-manager” of that corporation.

Ruggiero, who owns and manages many properties in the city under different corporate names, could not immediately be reached Wednesday for comment. He has not yet submitted a response to the lawsuit.

Ruggiero was in Rutland Superior Court last month for a hearing regarding another property in the city.

In that case, a judge ordered Ruggiero to pay as much as $1.8 million to the state for an emergency environmental cleanup it did of that property in 2014 after trying unsuccessfully to get the Rutland businessman to clean it up.

That Woodstock Avenue property, now vacant, is the former home of Filippo Dry Cleaners. The state said hazardous chemicals remaining at the site posed a risk to groundwater and a nearby neighborhood.

Ruggiero said at the hearing that he intended to appeal the payment order.

In the Cleveland Avenue case, the state is asking the judge to order Ruggiero to retain a state-licensed asbestos abatement contractor and to apply for an asbestos abatement permit within 10 days of a judgment.

The state also wants the judge to order the cleanup of the site to the requirements in that permit.

In addition, the state is seeking a $10,000 penalty against 10 Cleveland LCC and Ruggiero, plus repayment of the costs of investigating and bringing the lawsuit.

According to the filing, state regulations require a “facility owner” to have an asbestos assessment by a Vermont-certified asbestos inspector prior to any renovation or demolition. And the filing says a facility owner must notify the state within 10 days of demolition, whether or not any asbestos is found.

A facility is defined in the regulations as any industrial or commercial building vacated for demolition purposes, the lawsuit says.

The filing says that on Sept. 12, 2012, Ruggiero received an order from the Rutland building inspector requiring the demolition of the run-down wood-framed portion of the building, after obtaining all needed state permits.

That part of the building was demolished in September 2012, the lawsuit says. In 2014, according to the filing, Ruggiero applied to the state for onsite disposal of demolition debris at the 10 Cleveland Ave. property.

The debris had been placed in the cellar hole on the site, and Ruggiero asked that it remain there, covered with fill from an offsite work area and then paved over to be used as a parking lot, the lawsuit says.

In September 2014, the state Agency of Natural Resources asbestos and lead regulatory program became aware of that request and knew that a prior report on the property identified asbestos in the siding and window glazing, according to the filing.

State testing of samples from the site showed they exceeded the 1 percent regulatory threshold for chrysotile asbestos, the lawsuit says. Some samples showed levels as high as 5 percent, the state says.

Asbestos is a threat the humans, but asbestos fibers are dangerous only if they are disturbed, such as through a construction project, sending them into the air where people may inhale them, the lawsuit says. Such exposure can lead to serious lung problems and cancer, according to the filing.

Ruggiero did retain the services of an asbestos abatement contractor, and a cleanup plan was submitted to the state, according to the filing.

On March 16, the state said, it issued Ruggiero a permit to clean up the site according to that plan, but the permit expired in May with no cleanup taking place.

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