PROVO — Inspectors from the U.S. Environmental Agency are carefully scrutinizing the demolition of two Provo motels.

No official notices of violations or noncompliance advisories were issued after EPA inspections of demolition sites in Provo's East Bay business sector.

Crews are tearing down a Howard Johnson's and a Motel 6.

But the company ripping down the motels — Provo-based Mark Powell Demolition, which was hired by General Growth Properties in Chicago, Ill. — was warned it did not adequately evaluate asbestos levels in the materials of the buildings before demolition started.

Asbestos was not found at the Motel 6 demolitions site.

Results of tests done at the Howard Johnson's site have not yet come back, officials said.

Still, as a precaution, the EPA told the company to immediately stop hauling material away from the site.

Contacted Tuesday by the Deseret Morning News, Mark Powell Demolition Co. refused comment and referred all calls to General Growth Properties.

Representatives from General Growth were not available for comment Tuesday.

The firms would be held "liable for any activities they do from the time we did the inspection until we issue our official notice," said Bryce Bird, an EPA environmental program manager and hazardous air-pollutants section manager.

"If we find . . . material," Bird said, "they'll be subject to penalties."

By law, companies are required to hire a certified asbestos contractor to provide a report and proof that any asbestos was removed and properly disposed prior to demolition. The EPA must be notified 10 working days in advance of any destruction of buildings.

Bird said it was not done properly by the company.

Asbestos is widely known for its ability to remain stable at high temperatures. However, people who work around or disturb asbestos are at risk of developing asbestos-associated diseases.

When inhaled, the small fibers in asbestos get into the body. Each exposure increases the likelihood of developing diseases, particularly cancer.

Laws are in place to limit public exposure during demolition activities.

"Our next step would be to give an official notice and invite the company in to form a plan on how to rid the site of the asbestos," Bird said.

"It doesn't matter what the company knew or when, they're still subject to penalties from the activity," he said. "In this case, it looks like there were some flaws in the initial inspection and material that should have been removed prior to demolition, wasn't."

The EPA expects to receive final sample results this week.

Meanwhile, another certified asbestos inspector has been hired by Mark Powell Demolition to evaluate and do any removal at the Howard Johnson site.

The statutory limit and fine levied by the EPA for violating asbestos regulations is $10,000 per day, per violation.


E-mail: tsotomayor@desnews.com