An asbestos contractor company owner from Chardon, Ohio will be spending the next couple of years in prison thanks to his disregard for asbestos laws during a project he completed nearly 5 years ago.
The Great Lakes Echo reports that Russell Stewart, owner of Chemstruction, has been found guilty of violating the U.S. Clean Air Act and was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered to pay fines amounting to nearly $900,000.
The sentence was passed down after Stewart admitted to improper asbestos demolition at the former Stark Ceramics manufacturing facility in Canton, as well as failing to timely dispose of hazardous asbestos waste at the site.
Stewart’s contract at the Stark site, a 500-acre property, included removing all asbestos-containing materials in accordance with current environmental regulations.
The U.S. Attorney’s office noted that Stewart knew there was asbestos throughout the site, a fact that had been established by a previously-completed environmental survey.
“The demolition work took place between November 2011 and January 2013,” reported the newspaper article. “After an inspector found crushed panels with asbestos on the site in October 2012, Stewart was told to stop demolition until development of a cleanup plan — but he disobeyed the order.
Stewart continued the demolition, causing asbestos panels to be crumbled, pulverized and reduced to powder, according to the criminal charge.”
“Debris from the crushed panels littered the site. The debris remained in such condition for weeks and was exposed to wind and the elements,” noted the charges forged against the asbestos contractor and his company.
Stewart’s negligent actions “released asbestos fibers into the environment and resulted in an $800,000 cleanup funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” said Scot Adair of the Ohio EPA’s criminal enforcement program. “It’s imperative that asbestos be removed safely, and EPA and its law enforcement partners will hold to account those who refuse to obey the law.”
This isn’t the first time Stewart has faced the law and been found guilty. Just 8 months ago he was sentenced to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine for illegally operating a hazardous waste facility.
Simultaneously, he was given a two-year sentence and another $5,000 fine for improperly and illegally transporting hazardous waste. Since he’s already in prison, time for this new charge will likely be added to his current sentence.
No one else from Stewart’s company has been charged in the case at this time.
However, it’s likely that anyone who worked for Stewart may have been affected by his negligent behavior. Employees were no doubt handling asbestos in an improper manner and perhaps without benefit of any sort of asbestos gear.
That means they may have inhaled toxic fibers that will eventually make them sick.
Anyone else in the vicinity of the property while the asbestos was left in the open may be affected as well, but because asbestos diseases can take decades to develop, it’s just too soon to tell.