Idaho asbestos violations endanger workers, residents and require $4 million EPA cleanup

23 Aug 2013 by under Legal, News

DOJ logo 100x100 Idaho asbestos violations endanger workers, residents and require $4 million EPA cleanupTwo contractors who were hired to oversee a waterline renovation project in Orofino, Idaho, were sentenced in federal court for violations of the asbestos work practice standards and Clean Air Act. and were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Their failure to adhere to required asbestos handling, disposal and abatement procedures endangered workers and the public, and cost the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nearly $4 million to clean up asbestos-contaminated land.

According to a Department of Justice news release, Eberhart and Greiner worked for Owyhee Construction, Inc., which obtained the contract for a $2.1 million waterline renovation project. Greiner was the project superintendent and Eberhart was the onsite supervisor. Documents that outlined specifics for the job contained a warning that there were cement asbestos pipes (CAP) present on the job site. CAP is safe until it is broken, cut or crushed, at which time it may release asbestos fibers into the air. This is a threat to public health.

Inhaled asbestos fibers can cause serious diseases including asbestosis, a severe scarring of the lungs, and mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs or abdomen. There is no known cure for mesothelioma.

The DOJ says Eberhart and Greiner directed workers to cut and crush the pipes without proper protective gear. They additionally instructed workers to take the crushed pipe and place it in trenches on the job site. Crushed CAP also was removed from the job site and used as filler material at 16 additional properties around Orofino.

Both men pleaded guilty to violating asbestos work practice standards and the Clean Air Act on Feb. 26, 2013. Additionally, Greiner pleaded guilty to orchestrating one of the CAP disposals.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge sentenced Eberhart to six months in prison plus six months home confinement, followed by six months of supervised release and 200 hours of community service. He also must pay restitution of $3.98 million. Greiner also was sentenced to six months in prison and six months home confinement, followed by six months of supervised release. He also will pay restitution, in an amount to be determined at a later date following additional discussion.

“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, said U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho Wendy J. Olsen.

Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Seattle, said “These two Defendants carelessly subjected Orofino residents to asbestos exposure. 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.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Marc Haws from the District of Idaho and Senior Trial Attorney J. Ronald Sutcliffe of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

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