A Boise, Idaho company, Owyhee Construction Inc., will spend at least three years on probation and pay a $100,000 fine for violating state and federal asbestos laws that placed thousands of residents at risk after failing to capture and properly dispose of cement that contained asbestos. The incident occurred while the company was working on a water line project that contained pipe and cement that was filled with non-friable asbestos.
According to court documents, Owyhee Construction was hired to renovate the city of Orofino’s water lines in 2009. The company was told beforehand that the water system contained up to 5,000 feet of pipe with asbestos, yet both the foreman and the onsite manager didn’t properly monitor the workers and the project, and in turn the waste materials were not safely concealed and removed according to federal environmental guidelines. Consequently, the materials, littered with asbestos, were used as fill around Orofino, on 16 private properties.
To make matter worse, residents were mislead to believe that the materials used as fill were safe. According to Seattle’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criminal division agent, Tyler Amon, the company made no mention at all that asbestos was in the fill.
“Deceived into thinking Owyhee Construction had provided them with ‘clean fill,’ citizens and businesses of Orofino used the material to fill their, driveways and yards. The result: a contaminated mixture of crushed pipe and debris laced with harmful asbestos spread over 16 separate sites,” said Amon.
While working in the trenches, workers removed CAP, a non-friable form of asbestos, which was never disposed of properly. Although the CAP was encapsulated by the cement, it’s extremely hazardous when airborne. Since heavy-duty machinery was used during the renovation, much of the cement was grinded and broken.
In turn, the EPA spent $3.9 million to clean up the company’s mistakes.
This isn’t the first time that the Owyhee company violated laws that are meant to protect people from the dangers of asbestos. Just last year, two employees from the same company were arrested for failing to wear protective gear while working around asbestos and failing to train workers on how to properly remove it. Both Bradley Eberhart, 52 and Douglas Greiner, 53, were sentenced to six months in prison, followed by six months of house arrest.
Because of the multiple infractions, District Judge Edward J. Lodge mandated that Owhee Construction create an ethics and compliance program that all employees must participate in.
In addition to the $100,000 fine, the federal government is also seeking $2.5 million for cleanup costs; an amount that may increase after additional legal action via civil enforcement.
Remember, if you or a loved were exposed to asbestos due to the negligent actions of others, you have the legal right to file for damages against the responsible party. Asbestos, an extremely dangerous mineral when its fibers are airborne, has been linked to life-threatening illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. To learn more about your rights, options, and for a free, no-obligation case consultation, contact our leasing mesothelioma law firm today. We’ll fight to ensure you have a successful chance in winning the damages you’re entitled to.