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Construction Company Fined $1.5 Million for Clean Air Act Violations, VP Sentenced

Asbestos was used extensively in numerous building materials, automotive parts, and in shipbuilding for its strength, durability, and ability to resist heat before its deadly health risks were discovered. Because individual asbestos fibers cannot be seen by the naked eye, workers are still at increased risk of exposure. Fortunately, though asbestos is not totally banned in the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and certain other federal agencies have strict regulations in place to protect workers from the hazards of asbestos and penalties are severe. Unfortunately, despite repercussions, not all companies follow the rules.

Such was the case with a major construction company that failed to comply with the asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants during the illegal removal of asbestos containing materials from an 18-story high-rise building in May 2012. The building (tower) happened to be part of a Government Center inaugurated in 1973. 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, over the weekend of Saturday, May 11, 2012, to Sunday, May 13, 2012, a sub-contractor of the construction company removed asbestos containing material from the ceiling of the 9th floor of the tower. “The asbestos containing material was removed without following any of the Asbestos Work Practice Standards required by federal regulation. A significant portion of the asbestos containing material was taken from the 9th floor and was placed in the trash area behind the building. Approximately 550 square feet of asbestos-containing stucco ceiling material was removed from the 9th floor.”

The sub-contractor was hired to do general demolition and on Saturday, May 12, 2012, and Sunday, May 13, 2012, were working within the scope of their employment and at least, in part, for the benefit of the Defendant.

The asbestos containing material was discovered by employees of the construction company on Monday May 14, 2012, and it failed to immediately report the release of the asbestos to the National Response Center (NRC) as required by law. The EPA initiated an investigation into the release and received sampling results later that week showing asbestos throughout the building and the agency issued a notice to the local Building Authority that then closed the building. Cleanup of the tower took approximately one year.

Because of the violation, the construction company was fined $1.5 million and three years of probation for violating the federal Clean Air Act, announced the Justice Department. The company was also ordered to pay $172,020 “to cover a baseline medical examination and follow up medical examination for victims exposed to asbestos fibers in the aftermath of the illegal activity,” said the Department. After pleading guilty to failing to notify immediately the NRC of the release of asbestos, the vice president of the construction company was also sentenced to pay a fine and serve a six-month term of probation.

If you know of an environmental violation, report it. Says the EPA, “every member of the public can help the EPA to protect human health and the environment.”

If you think you may have been exposed to asbestos, contact your doctor immediately. He can help determine where, when, and how you were exposed to asbestos and refer you to a specialist who can help determine if you are at risk of developing mesothelioma.

 

Sources

"Asbestos Laws and Regulations." EPA. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 01 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 Aug. 2017.

"Construction Company Sentenced for Clean Air Act Violations." The United States Department of Justice. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, 16 Aug. 2017. Web. 19 Aug. 2017.

Giles, Cynthia. "Your Tips Help Us Protect Communities." The EPA Blog. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Aug. 2017. Web. 19 Aug. 2017.

"OSHA Fact Sheet: Asbestos." Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). United States Department of Labor, Jan. 2014. Web. 19 Aug. 2017.