Contractors who were removing asbestos from buildings at the former Pfizer property on Route 53 in Morris Plains had to be pulled from the project because of "fines levied by the NJ Department of Labor for violations during asbestos abatement," the developer of the site wrote in a letter to the state.
The state said last week the alleged violations still are under investigation, and information about the case is not yet available to the public.
A new contractor took over and the work is continuing, the developer and state officials said.
After the asbestos abatement work is finished, developer M&M Realty Partners plans to demolish the buildings at 170 and 182 Tabor Road and build hundreds of apartments, condominiums and townhouses plus about 100,000 square feet of retail space.
Asbestos work can only be performed by state-licensed contractors. Even small amounts of asbestos, which was a common construction material until it was found to be a health hazard, "can cause serious illness and death years after exposure," according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
In a Jan. 25 letter to the Asbestos Control and Licensing section of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Adel Merdan of M&M at Morris Plains LLC requested a waiver of the 10-day notification process typically required for asbestos abatement work so a new contractor could continue the work as soon as possible following the original contractors being removed from the project.
"As you are aware, our prior demolition contractor, Metro Industrial Wrecking and Environmental Contracts and their asbestos abatement subcontractors, Dennison and ATC, started asbestos abatement on the above-referenced project," Merdan wrote. "However, due to the fines levied by the NJ Department of Labor for violations during asbestos abatement, those contractors had to be removed from the project."
The developer and subcontractors have not yet responded to questions about the alleged violations and requests for comment.
Pyramid Contracting Corporation took over the asbestos removal work.
The state said it also responded to a complaint about Pyramid, but the complaint was unfounded and the company still is serving as the asbestos abatement contractor at the site.
Morris Plains said back in October that asbestos abatement work at 182 Tabor Road was expected to be completed in four to six weeks.
The exact number of housing units to be built on the 63-acre site is the subject of litigation. M&M, a venture of Edgewood Properties and JMP Holdings, is suing Morris Plains to be able to build 800 housing units, with 295 units for low- or moderate-income residents, which it says will help the borough comply with the Fair Housing Act. The borough says plans originally called for 500 housing units, the municipality has complied with the housing law, and it will defend itself in court.
The borough said in a Feb. 8 update on its website that Morris Plains rejected a request from M&M to declare the work a "redevelopment project" and give the developer 20 years of tax relief equal to the school portion of the tax bill.