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A mess with asbestos leads to prison sentence

This story is illustrative of at least two elements of problems related to asbestos materials in buildings throughout the nation. While in this case, the asbestos was blowing across a South Carolina beach, it could just as easily have been a California beach, city street or park. Because of the tens of thousands locations where asbestos was employed, it could occur in any town and even on your own street.

The building was a beachfront condominium. It does not indicate when it was constructed, but chances are it was the late 1960 to the early 1980s. The building had 35 cubic feet of asbestos on its exterior surface. The defendant, a contractor, pressure washed the surface, apparently spraying the friable asbestos onto surrounding proprieties and the beach. 

He was originally charged with seven federal Clean Air Act violations and two felonies, and could have been sentenced to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000. His company was also charged. 

The charges were reduced and he will spend six months in prison and pay a $10,000 fine. He will then have an additional six months home arrest and three years probation.

What is notable is that the Clean Air Act violation are civil charges, he lied to the investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency. This is another example of the underlying offense, removing asbestos in violation of the federal regulations, has a less severe penalty than the crime of lying to a federal officer.

Second, the charges were dropped against the company, because it went out of business. Punishing construction and demolition firms who violate the asbestos laws is always difficult, as they can claim they are bankrupt and shut down, leaving no assets.

Nonetheless, we hope the contractor follows all regulations should he ever encounter asbestos again, for the sake of his neighbors and his workers.

Source: The State, "SC contractor heading to prison for letting asbestos blow onto beach," David Wren, May 22, 2014 

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