It seems that recently there has been no shortage of hazardous mishandling of asbestos throughout the United States. In the last couple of months we wrote about violations in Kilgore, Texas, Bay City, Michigan, and Stamford, CT, to name just a few. Now, the owner of an airplane parts manufacturing plant in New York has been charged with illegally removing asbestos from a building.
According to a Dec. 14 article in the New York News, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspectors “came across” the owner of Lawrence Aviation of Port Jefferson Station, NY, and several others, including a contractor, removing asbestos from piping in a former metal-shaping building on the grounds of the plant. According to the article, “the men were in what sources described ‘as a cloud of white dust’ of the material created by their activity.”
Even though the owner knew that they were removing asbestos, he assured his workers that the “white powder was harmless and did not contain asbestos.” He also falsely added to the story by saying the plant did not have asbestos “because it used titanium in the production of airplane parts, and titanium and asbestos could not be present in the same place,” according to the news report. The owner was actually trying to salvage the metal in the piping that the EPA had told him was insulated with asbestos.
The man pleaded not guilty to the felony charge of “intentionally violating the asbestos work practice emissions standards of the Clear Air Act,” according to New York News. He was released on $250,000 bail, and now faces up to five years in prison if he is convicted of the asbestos charge, according to the article.
Asbestos is a human carcinogen that is known to cause mesothelioma, a terminal cancer, lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. The EPA reports that there is no safe level of exposure. Exposure leads to a life-long danger of developing mesothelioma.
The Clean Air Act was established in 1970 by the EPA to protect the public with an “adequate margin of safety,” and offers guidelines for keeping the public and workers safe from asbestos and other environmental hazards. Benefits over the last 40 years from the Clean Air Act, according to the EPA, include: the Clean Air Act has cut pollution as the U.S. economy has grown; Americans breathe less pollution and face lower risks of premature death and other serious health effects; and the value of Clean Air Act health benefits far exceeds the costs of reducing pollution.
Lawrence Aviation, a 126-acre, 10-building property, was named a Superfund site in 2000 by the EPA. According to a March 27 article in the Times Beacon Record, Brookhaven, NY officials called on New York State Department of Labor to clean up the asbestos on the property and for the Lawrence Aviation owner to clean up oil spills, leaking machinery and transformers. The NY Labor Department regulates asbestos removal at New York work sites.