Two brothers who owned co-owned a Mill River warehouse were each sentenced to one year of probation, fifty hours of community service and fined $9,500 for “illegal and dangerous removal of asbestos” at the warehouse. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton to the brothers who own the 43,000 square foot warehouse located at 206 Wallace Street.
The warehouse was purchased in late 2015. Although the brothers were informed prior to the purchase that there was asbestos in the warehouse, they continued with the purchase. A previous potential buyer received a bid for $117,000 for a legal cleanup of the property’s asbestos.
Laborers Dangerously Remove Asbestos from Warehouse Without Proper Safety Measures in Place
Unfortunately, rather than hiring a licensed hazardous materials company to perform the removal of the asbestos from the warehouse, the brothers hired laborers.
These laborers spent days demolishing certain parts of the warehouse. The work included breaking tiles, tearing out plumbing pipes, and engaging in additional construction tasks which included removing “significant quantities of friable asbestos.”
An anonymous tip came into the city Health Department, who then dispatched inspectors to the property. The inspectors determined there were numerous instances of asbestos being removed from the property unsafely and illegally.
In fact, a press release which came from the office of the U.S. District Attorney for the District of Connecticut, stated no “wetting” was used in the removal of asbestos-containing items, no protective sheeting or other type of barrier was implemented, and no negative air machines were used for the required workspace vacuum effect.
These are just some of the safety precautions taken when asbestos is being removed from a building. These precautions prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the environment.
While the workers did suit up and wear dust masks, neither the suits nor the masks were specifically designed for use in the abatement of asbestos, therefore did not offer the necessary protection to the workers.
Further, because the workers wore the suits and masks repeatedly (rather than decontaminating and disposing of the suits and masks) throughout the project, they were not protected against asbestos exposure. Photographs showed between a hundred and a hundred and fifty trash bags willed with materials suspected of containing asbestos.
Isolated incident? Doubtful.
Three years after purchasing the warehouse, in the fall of 2018, the brothers both pled guilty to violating the Clean Air Act, with one count each of illegal asbestos removal.
Unfortunately, this may not be an isolated incident.
Asbestos was used extensively in the construction of residential homes between the early 1940s through the 1970s and was considered a highly effective, inexpensive fire-retardant material, as well as a thermal and acoustic insulator. It was later found that prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers could lead to lung diseases such as mesothelioma as well as other types of cancers. Homes constructed prior to 1975 likely have thermal insulation on basement pipes and boilers which contained asbestos.
Other asbestos-containing materials used in homes included:
● Glazing and caulking on windows;
● Vinyl floor tiles;
● Glues used to attach floor tiles to wood or concrete;
● Certain linoleum floor coverings;
● Blown-in attic insulation;
● Siding materials;
● HVAC duct insulation;
● Roofing materials, usually found on flat roofs;
● Heavy-duty, corrugated 8’ x 4’ panels;
● Some types of paint, and
● Fiber cement siding.
Asbestos fibers are unlikely to be released when the materials are in good condition, however, the health hazard comes when the materials are disturbed—usually when parts or all of the homes are demolished. When handled properly, asbestos can be prevented from becoming a health hazard.
Getting Help for Asbestos Exposure in Louisiana
If you or a loved one has developed an asbestos-related illness, like mesothelioma or asbestosis, it can be helpful to contact our experienced Louisiana asbestos attorneys to help understand the legalities associated with asbestos exposure.
Call 504-299-1214 and speak to one of our attorneys about your legal options.