Asbestos plagues Michigan charter school at two separate locations

9 Sep 2013 by under Legal, News

Bay City Academy photo by MLive 100x100 Asbestos plagues Michigan charter school at two separate locationsAsbestos has plagued renovation projects undertaken by the Bay City Academy charter school in Bay City, Mich., on two separate occasions and at two separate, unrelated locations.

At the end of August, a federal grand jury indicted three men on felony charges related to the alleged mishandling of asbestos during a project to convert a former church at 400 N. Madison Ave. in Bay City into Bay City Academy from August 2010 through September 2011. Two of the defendants, Roy C. Bradley Sr. and Gerald A. Essex, were accused of knowingly failing to remove asbestos-containing material from the building “in accordance with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.” A third co-defendant, Rodolfo Rodriguez, stands charges with tampering with witnesses, victims or informants. The men were arraigned before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Charles E. Binder on Aug. 29.

Just before the arraignment hearing, Bay City Academy founder declared the school’s newest campus ready for final building safety approval and inspections. The new elementary school is housed in a former YMCA building. Asbestos was discovered at the 59-year-old building during its renovation this summer, and proper procedures were followed, Ingersoll told MLive Media Group.

“As in all old buildings, we have a myriad of construction difficulties with asbestos being one of them. That’s all clear, and we are going to be just fine – the asbestos has been remediated,” he told the news agency.

Ingersoll expressed surprise at the news of the indictments stemming from the renovation work at the former church, telling MLive, “… we’ve had the usual regulatory inspections and whatnot related to all aspects of environmental issues from the start of construction, through construction and after construction, and each year thereafter. There’s never been a test that showed any sort of problem.”

Details about how the asbestos was mishandled were not released by the prosecutors, but U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade is quoted as saying “Illegal handling of asbestos can contaminate the air and harm our quality of life. We hope that cases like this one will deter these environmental crimes.”

Asbestos exposure has been linked to the development of mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs or abdomen. There is no known cure for mesothelioma.

Bradley, Essex and Rodriguez are awaiting their next court date. Bradley and Essex face four counts of illegally distributing and handling asbestos, which carries a penalty of five years in prison. Rodriguez faces single counts of tampering with witnesses, victims or informants, which carries a 20-year penalty, and making false declarations to a grand jury, which carries a penalty of five years imprisonment.

The Bay City Academy currently enrolls about 430 students, and has 50 students on a waiting list. The former YMCA will house Kindergarten through third grade. The former church will house students in fourth through eighth grade. Ingersoll hopes to eventually serve 1,000 students in a complete Kindergarten through 12th grade program. This is the fourth charter school Ingersoll has founded.

Sources: – Aug. 30 – Aug. 28

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