It was bad enough the first time when owner Walter Monroe Smith at Rapides Roofing and Home Repair got caught burning piles of asbestos shingles and endangering the health of everyone in Pineville, Louisiana.
The second time cost him.
After the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) caught him as a repeat offender, Smith was brought into district court this week, where he pleaded guilty to separate counts of illegally disposing of wastes.
He was sentenced to five years of hard labor by Judge Thomas M. Yeager, who suspended the sentence but still gave him three years of probation. Smith was fined $3,000, along with $1,000 of court costs, and ordered to pay back $2,000 to the DEQ for the cost of its investigation.
“There are a few business owners in the state who choose to skirt environmental and health laws by disposing of waste in an illegal and improper fashion,” said DEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch in a news release. “[Our] mission is to aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone found to be in violation of the very laws that have been put in place to protect human health and the environment.”
Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, the cancer that is diagnosed in an estimated 3,000 Americans each year. It was an ingredient used prominently in both roofing and flooring materials through much of the 20th century. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause numerous respiratory problems.
The use of asbestos has been dramatically reduced in recent years, and there are strict abatement and disposal laws in this country, but asbestos remains a serious problem around the world.
Smith Is a Repeat Offender
The original charges in September 2009 against Smith involved shingles that his company collected from a roofing job done on the city of Pineville’s police detectives’ building.
His second violation, according to the DEQ, occurred a year later when he instructed his employees to set fire to a pile of roofing shingles, tire rims, plastic products and other solid wastes at another site upon the completion of another repair job.
He was arrested after the second incident and charged again by the Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office.
“We will continued to work with our local state and federal partners to ensure such violators are brought to justice,” Hatch said.
In addition to the sentence, Smith also was ordered to publish a public apology in the local newspaper.