We have reported time again about contractors who try to skirt asbestos laws, but eventually get caught by authorities. In October, we reported about a Washington company that issued asbestos certifications to unqualified workers leading to fines and possible parole for the company owner. Now, once again, the Washington Attorney General’s office caught up with the owner of a WA asbestos abatement company and has charged him with five felonies for falsifying records.
According to a Dec. 29 press release from the WA Attorney General’s office, the company falsified records to indicate they had safely disposed of asbestos-containing materials when they had not. The company took a shipment of asbestos-containing materials to a landfill with forged signatures on documents indicating the waste did not contain asbestos. Asbestos waste is more expensive to dispose of requiring disposal fees and certified documentation.
“Strict rules governing the disposal of asbestos waste exist to protect workers and the public, and they must be followed,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Asbestos is extremely hazardous to workers handling it and to others in the area when it gets into the air and is inhaled. Because of this hazard, laws have been enacted to prevent asbestos exposures, according to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. WA disposal requirements require demolition debris to be placed in a construction dumpster that is watertight and appropriately labeled.
Ensuring that asbestos is disposed of properly is critical to the health and safety of the workers and the public. Washington and federal laws strictly regulate the handling of asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos abatement companies and their workers must be asbestos-certified, and any project they undertake to clear asbestos from a site requires inspections, filing of reports, proper safety gear for employees and proper disposal of the asbestos.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and even small amounts of exposure can lead to serious health conditions including pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs, lung cancer and other respiratory conditions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that undisturbed asbestos does not cause health issues. However, if airborne, the fibers can be inhaled leading to a lifelong risk of developing mesothelioma. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
“I will not tolerate people who flout environmental laws to make a quick buck,” said Ferguson who has made prosecuting environmental crimes, including asbestos violations, a priority. He has brought environmental prosecutions leading to 19 criminal convictions, and restitution orders in excess of $900,000 since 2013, according to the AG’s office.