The final stage in criminal prosecution was reached in Fresno Monday when a federal judge fined three men $1.8 million who had operated a nonprofit business that was designed to help high school student gain work experience and job skills. The fines were imposed because the men employed the high school students and exposed them to asbestos while performing demolition on old buildings on the site of the former Castle Air Force Base.
During the demolition work, the students were exposed to asbestos-containing materials without training or being provided proper protective equipment necessary for anyone working with asbestos.
The work was done on buildings constructed during the 1940s when asbestos was widely used many building materials. Virtually any building from this era demands asbestos testing and a properly equipped asbestos abatement team to safely remove these materials. The company the three men operated saved money by cutting corners and ignoring the asbestos risk.
The men faced state and federal charges in connection with exposing the students to asbestos and plead guilty to violations of National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants Act. They also were charged with and plead no contest to felony counts of “treating, handling or disposing of asbestos in a manner that caused an unreasonable risk of serious injury to students, with reckless disregard for their safety.”
The $1.8 million fine will be used to monitor the health of the students for the remainder of their lives. While this may represent the final chapter of the prosecution, because of the decades-long latency period for the potential development of mesothelioma, the students and other workers who were exposed to the asbestos-containing materials face a life sentence of uncertainty.
Fresnobee.com, “Fresno federal judge fines 3 execs $1.8m for students’ asbestos exposure,” February 23, 2015