In a case dating back to 2012, a third man has pleaded guilty to demolishing a Cleveland building before removing asbestos. The man has been charged with violating the Clean Air Act by failing to remove asbestos prior to demolition and for failing to dispose of asbestos waste. Asbestos was released into the air threatening the health of students and teachers at the nearby Iowa-Maple Elementary School.
According to a March 30 article in Cleveland.com, the man was the last of three people to be charged in the case brought against them by federal and state authorities. In 2011, the men claimed to be using the former National Acme Facility in Cleveland as a recycling facility, but over the months more trash, cardboard and paper was deposited in the facility than could be handled, and the building ultimately became a large dump, according to an Oct. 2, 2014, press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Ohio.
In July 2012 the men submitted a request to demolish the building claiming there was no asbestos present, although another company had previously identified asbestos claiming a $1.5 million price tag to remove the toxic material. The request was denied, but the men moved forward with the demolition sending asbestos fibers into the air and leaving debris outside the facility from demolition. The AG’s office reports asbestos was in the debris and trash piles exposed to the wind and elements.
“We will not allow our neighborhoods to be used as garbage dumps,” said U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach in October 2014 when the first two men were charged.
Additional businesses were caught up in the case with a recycling company and a disposal company being charged with illegal open dumping, operating a solid waste landfill without a license, and of operating a solid waste transfer facility without a license.
Congress established the Clean Air Act to protect the U.S. public from air pollution and environmental hazards. The Act also contains specific provisions to address hazardous or toxic air pollutants, such as asbestos, that pose health risks, including cancer. Businesses and individuals must adhere to specific guidelines and regulations during development. Unfortunately, as shown by this case, some people blatantly ignore the rules.
Asbestos is a mineral that has been linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a malignant cancer of the lining of the lung and abdomen that is closely associated with inhaling microscopic asbestos dust. Approximately 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma and thousands more die of lung cancer related to asbestos exposure. Signs of illnesses such as mesothelioma may not develop until many decades after initial exposure.
“Thousands of tons of garbage were dumped illegally near a residential neighborhood,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “This behavior is inexcusable. Residents have to deal with this significant environmental and health threat, and they deserved to see those accountable brought to justice.”
Final sentencing for the three men will be in July.