May 23, 2014
A Little River, South Carolina man will spend six months in prison after allowing asbestos to blow onto a nearby beach, a federal prosecutor stated this week. The business owner and his company were working on a beachfront condominium renovation when the infraction occurred; a violation of the Federal Clean Air Act.
According to court documents, in 2009, David Braswell, owner of Cool Cote LLC, was hired to take the old siding off of the Regency Tower condominium building in Myrtle Beach, and replace it with new siding.
Braswell and his company began to work on the building immediately, without first getting the state-required asbestos inspection. In addition, he failed to give written notice of the renovation to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, another required state law.
The company also began pressure washing the exterior of the building prior to properly blocking the area off so that friable asbestos could be controlled and contained. As a result, asbestos fiber became airborne, traveling around the nearby ocean as well as neighborhoods in the area. Furthermore, none of the workers were provided the necessary safety clothing and gear while working.
“The workers for Cool Cote Inc. were not provided with respiratory protection, nor were the residents of Regency Towers informed of the danger and provided personal or environmental protection.”
To make matters worse, the prosecutors who worked on the case stated that Braswell and the workers knew beforehand that the building contained asbestos, but yet ignored it and proceeded with the work. Braswell also lied to investigators on at least two occasions, claiming ignorance regarding asbestos in the building.
Special Agent Maureen O’Mara of the EPA’s criminal enforcement division in South Carolina hopes that Braswell’s conviction and prison sentence will persuade other companies who work around asbestos to follow the correct procedures.
“Today’s sentence should serve notice that EPA and its partner agencies remain committed to protecting communities through tough enforcement of the nation’s environmental laws.”
Bill Nettles, South Carolina’s U.S. attorney, feels the same as O’Mara, and reiterated that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated in the state.
“Our office will continue to prioritize the environmental work we do with both federal and state agencies, to ensure these cases are brought to the forefront.”
Per court documents, Braswell is expected to start his prison sentence within the next few months.
Keep in mind that if you suspect any company of improperly working around asbestos or failing to remove and/or contain it correctly, you should contact your local authorities immediately.
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