EPA, Federal Courts Continue Crackdown on Violations of Asbestos Regulations
The Environmental Protection Agency continues its crackdown on asbestos-related violations, filing suit in federal district court this week against Lovett Contracting, Inc., which it says performed illegal demolition work in Gibbstown, New Jersey, in 2007.
The EPA is asking the court to access a fine of $32,000 fine per violation, per day, against the company, according to the Gloucester County Times.
The suit alleges six violations of the federal Clean Air Act and the National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants. The violations spanned more than two months at the site of a former DuPont plant that once produced gunpowder, among other materials.
Regulators contend that Lovett did not take the necessary precautions in removing 5,000 feet of piping and 3,000 feet of pipe insulation that was built with asbestos, which allowed the fibers to become airborne.
The inhalation of asbestos fibers is the primary cause of mesothelioma, the cancer with a latency period up to 50 years.
The hefty fines come on the heels of several other actions taken by federal courts in recent months after the EPA found violations.
In September, Keith Gordon Smith, an asbestos abatement contractor from Rochester, N.Y., was sentenced to six years in prison for knowingly violating the Clean Air Act, and then making false statements to an EPA inspector.
In August, the Honey Creek Contracting Company in New Middletown, Ohio was fined $30,000 and its owner fined an additional $10,000 and place on 36 months of probation for the improper removal and handling of asbestos during renovation of a former steel plant.
Even cash-strapped schools are not immune to the EPA’s clout. In October, a private school in Keene, New Hampshire, was fined $12,500 for violating asbestos management laws. Officials from the Monadnock Waldorf School were found guilty of not properly notifying the school community about the asbestos conditions. The fine was later reduced to $4,000 after coming into compliance with the laws.
In March, a flooring contractor in Vermont paid a $27,500 fine after the EPA said it violated the Clean Air Act during a flooring removal and replacement job in 2008. The Morrison-Clark company was doing work at the Main Street Middle School in Montpelier, Massachusetts, that included vinyl asbestos tile that was improperly handled.
The latest asbestos suit was not taken lightly by the EPA, even though the violations occurred five years ago.
“The Clean Air Act requires work practice safeguards in asbestos removal and renovation projects to prevent the release of asbestos fibers,” EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said, according to the Gloucester County Times.