Routt County prepared to seek court order to enforce asbestos mitigation at Yampa fire site
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Commissioners, acting in their capacity as the Board of Health, agreed Tuesday to send a certified letter to Yampa resident and Royal Hotel owner Reno “Bill” Ager ordering him to submit a mitigation plan, including a timeline, by Aug. 1 for the cleanup of asbestos debris left from the fire that claimed the hotel in early January.
The letter from the County Board of Health backs up a letter sent to Ager in early May by the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment (CDPHE) notifying him that the fire debris contains asbestos, a known carcinogen. It gave him 30 days to to provide them with a mitigation plan if he was unable to immediately engage a certified general abatement contractor to remove the asbestos containing ruins of the hotel.
The certified letter from the county to Ager reads in part: “The Routt County Board of Health convened and held a hearing on complaints that the condition on the property presents a nuisance, a source of filth, or a cause of sickness.”
The implication, Commissioner Tim Corrigan said Wednesday, is that if Ager fails to comply, the county will take matters into its own hands in order to stabilize a public nuisance and possible health threat.
“Presumably, the board would move forward with getting a court order, the going out and doing something ourselves,” Corrigan said.
Commissioners on June 16 had discussed taking action to compel Ager to undertake the cleanup, but agreed not to move until they had more information from the CDPHE and a response plan.
Steamboat Today reported at that time the CDPHE had informed Ager by mail that debris from the fire contained an estimated 200 cubic yards of asbestos-containing material “exceeding the trigger levels of a 55-gallon drum for a commercial structure.”
Corrigan said the commissioners had a conference with an epidemiologist from the CDPHE, who informed them the actual risk from the asbestos in the Royal ruins was probably extremely low, but he couldn’t call it zero, and added there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Corrigan said a representative of the state health agency confirmed they would not take any measures to clean up the site. However, with a court order in hand, it appears to the county that they have a right to go on the property and treat the debris with a coating of magnesium chloride and cover it with a plastic tarp to contain it until an expert is in place to effect a permanent cleanup. He added that the county was prepared to bear the cost of the interim cleanup, which is expected to be in four figures.
The fire that destroyed the 112-year-old hotel in early January removed a significant community gathering place and a source of sales tax revenue for the little town in South Routt County.
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