The Attorney General of Washington State has filed charges against a Spokane contractor whose disregard of the Clean Air Act resulted in asbestos contamination for a residential neighborhood in the eastern Washington city.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson has charged Kent, Washington-based 2013 Investors LLC with multiple violations of clean air laws in conjunction with asbestos removal and disposal at an 89-room hotel in Spokane in 2013. The suit alleges that the owner of the company, Dayabir Bath, along with his nephew and another employee, failed to obtain proper asbestos surveys and did not apply for any permits that would have indicated the intention of removal of asbestos from the Spokane House Hotel. The only permits filed indicated the company would be painting and replacing drywall, the AG notes.
“My office won’t tolerate skirting our environmental laws and endangering public safety to make a quick buck,” Ferguson said. “Asbestos removal regulations are strict for a reason: The alleged actions of these individuals put at risk not only workers, inspectors and innocent neighbors, but also endangered our environment.”
The violations were discovered when a member of the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency happened to drive by the location and notice that renovations were much more extensive than originally indicated. He also spied large piles of asbestos debris sitting out in the open air. It was likely that fibers were entering the air and could have been endangering workers as well as neighbors as there are many homes close to the hotel. Allegedly, the asbestos remained in the open air for several months, subject to erosion due to high winds that occurred during that time period.
According to an account of the incident issued by Ferguson’s office, 2013 Investors LLC will be charged with:
- Three counts of violating the Washington Clean Air Act, and
- One count of reckless endangerment
Additionally, Gee Grewal, the owner’s nephew, is charged with:
- One count of making false statements to a public servant when he lied about the renovation job when questioned by authorities.
The men face up to three years of prison time and extensive fines for their negligence.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon in locations throughout the United States. Contractors often try to skirt the rules in regards to asbestos removal and disposal and, as such, wind up exposing unknowing workers as well as innocent persons who live or work near these asbestos-laden sites.
When old asbestos is removed, it is generally crumbling or “friable”, which indicates that it is easily broken into pieces. As such, errant fibers make their way into the air, where they can be inhaled. Those working directly with the material are most at risk, but scientists concur that even short, casual encounters with asbestos can eventually cause diseases like asbestosis or mesothelioma. No amount of exposure is too small, researchers agree.