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Improper asbestos disposal leads to criminal charges

Two men are facing criminal charges for allegedly failing to properly dispose of asbestos during the demolition of a New Jersey hospital. Now, they could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the unlawful release of toxic pollutants or any of the other charges filed against them.

According to court documents, one of the men sought out the owner of the hospital, which had been vacant since 2005, and asked if he could demolish the building under his company's name. The hospital owner agreed to allow the men to destroy the building and keep all proceeds they received from recycling the metal in the building, as long as they paid for all demolition costs, including asbestos removal and disposal. The men initially retained a licensed asbestos abatement contractor, but paid him only a small fraction of the $220,000 estimate for asbestos removal. The contractor worked only one day.

The men then hired work-release inmates and other day laborers to remove the asbestos from large sections of the hospital, providing them with only paper masks to protect them from the deadly asbestos fibers. The workers were instructed to dump the bags of asbestos and other materials on the floor of the hospital's boiler room in a purported attempt to make it appear that vandals had tried to steal the scrap metal from the building.

Police were eventually tipped off to the dangerous behavior and raided the hospital, finding 30 bags containing asbestos on the boiler room and an additional two bags buried in the ground. They arrested the two men and charged them with abandonment and unlawful release of toxic pollutants, conspiracy and violation of the Asbestos Control and Licensing Act.

Source: Courier-Post, "Asbestos removal in Riverside leads to charges," Lucas K. Murray, June 21, 2012

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