Two men in Idaho were recently found guilty for violating the asbestos work practice standards of the Clean Air Act and sentenced to six months in prison, six months of home confinement, followed by community service. At least one of the men also is liable for restitution of $3.98 million.
These men, supervisors on a project renovating a waterline in north central Idaho, were warned that they might encounter up to 5,000 linear feet of cement asbestos pipe (CAP.) When CAP is brushed, cut, broken or machine ground, it is regulated because of its public health threat. In these instances airborne fibers are released.
Both men failed to properly supervise the renovation, leaving employees improperly trained and protected. They also removed large quantities of CAP and dumped them as fill material over sixteen sites in the area. The EPA cleanup costs reached just under $4 million.
“These prison sentences reflect the serious consequences of the failure of these defendants to comply with EPA’s regulations that protect public health from asbestos, a human carcinogen,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Such criminal acts endanger workers and the community and can, as demonstrated here, cost the federal government millions of dollar to clean up. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute these crimes.”
“This case demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement and the Department of Justice to ensure the health of our residents,” said U.S. Attorney Olson. “Threats to the environment and to public health may not be readily apparent from a construction project. Renovation projects like these often generate dust with fine asbestos particles that may have the potential to cause serious health and environmental problems if safety precautions are not taken. The full extent of injury from airborne asbestos may not be noticed or diagnosed for years. It is important that companies, their foremen and their operators comply with environmental laws to avoid serious harm.”
“These two Defendants carelessly subjected Orofino residents to asbestos exposure,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Seattle. “In the course of their enterprise, they also created sixteen separate asbestos disposal sites that threatened the community, jeopardized workers and cost taxpayers $4 million to cleanup. Today’s sentence sends a clear message: if you risk people’s lives to save time and money, you will pay the price.”