In March, we reported on the Rochester property developer convicted of violating the Clean Air Act asbestos work practice standards involving asbestos removal and disturbance. Now, a New York judge has sentenced the man for exposing workers to asbestos during a construction project.
According to a June 20 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York, the man was sentenced to two years probation, 150 hours of community service, fined $15,000 and must pay restitution to the victims in the case. At the time of his initial court appearance, the man was facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In the case dating back to a 2011 investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, inspectors found workers, with no protective gear, near a dumpster containing “large quantities” of friable asbestos. There was no warning sign indicating to the workers that asbestos was present. Further inspection uncovered 90 bags of dry, friable asbestos and unlawful abatement inside the warehouse “involving asbestos contamination of more than 150,000 square feet.”
The warehouse where the workers were exposed, located at 920 Exchange St. in Rochester, is also near a residential area and a school bus stop. According to public records, the building was built in 1930.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, asbestos was used in construction products such as insulation for pipes, floor tiles, vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives and can be found throughout buildings built prior to the 1980s. When undisturbed and intact, asbestos products typically do not cause any harm, but when renovation work is done it is important to remove the asbestos-containing products.
Even small amounts of asbestos and infrequent exposure can create a risk for contracting mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. The 12th Report on Carcinogens from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that studies have found that asbestos causes both pleural (lung) and peritoneal (abdomen) mesothelioma, as well as cancer in the respiratory tract and other tissues. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reports that exposure to asbestos can also cause cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, and other organs.
The EPA and OSHA, as well as New York agencies, have strict guidelines and regulations for managing asbestos abatement projects. When renovation or demolition projects are undertaken it is imperative that those guidelines be followed closely.