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Construction company fined $25,000 for dumping asbestos in ditch

A company that was in the process of demolishing and replacing an old hotel has just been slapped with a $25,000 fine for violating the federal Clean Air and Clean Water acts. It was also ordered to pay $6,855 in restitution to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for its expenses in monitoring the cleanup of construction materials containing asbestos that the company had dumped illegally. On top of the fine and restitution, the cleanup reportedly cost the company in excess of $50,000.

According to press reports, a small group of investors created a corporation expressly for the purpose of demolishing an old hotel in Falls City, Nebraska, and replacing it. That corporation was responsible for asbestos abatement, as well as all other costs of the project, because older buildings cannot legally be demolished until they have been evaluated for the presence of asbestos, and most older buildings were built with products containing the deadly fiber.

It appears they initially did hire an asbestos abatement firm, which removed a first round of asbestos-laden building materials at a cost of around $24,000. However, that wasn't the whole job -- they still needed to seek out and safely remove asbestos materials from beneath all of the motel's floor tiles and sub-flooring. The remainder was substantial -- 4,814 square feet of asbestos-laden tile and 336 square feet of other flooring containing asbestos. Still, the cost was only expected to be around $14,000.

Other demolition continued for a few months but, when the abatement company returned to remove the remaining asbestos-containing construction materials, the demolition had already been completed. This prompted a call to the DHHS.

According to investigators, it turns out the company had canceled the remaining abatement, finished up the demolition, and had the asbestos-filled construction materials hauled away and dumped. Why? Sheer greed. Where? Two places: a Richardson County Department of Roads facility and a roadside ditch by a privately owned farm.

Leaving airborne, cancer-causing asbestos materials in a ditch is not only dangerous, it's also a violation of the Clean Water Act. And, improper removal of asbestos is itself a violation of the Clean Air Act.

Construction materials containing asbestos are surprisingly common in buildings more than a couple of decades old, and they are generally believed not to cause problems unless they are disturbed, such as by demolition or remodeling. When the fibers are released into the air, however, the cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. No company -- or individual -- can be allowed to callously cast these deadly materials aside simply to save a little money.

Source: St. Joseph Post, "Falls City Firm Fined For Asbestos Violations," John P. Tretbar, June 10, 2013

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