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Contractor goes to prison for asbestos violation

The owner of a South Carolina contracting firm has been sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement in connection with the failure of his company to prevent asbestos fibers from being blown onto a nearby beach and private homes. The sentence is a powerful reminder that asbestos and asbestos-containing products continue to pose a serious health hazard.

The firm, Cool Cote, LLC, was hired to remove and replace exterior siding at a hotel in Myrtle Beach in 2009. According to the indictment, Cool Cote failed to file a written notice with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control or to conduct a preliminary inspection to determine if asbestos was present. Cool Cote employees also allegedly applied a pressure wash to the exterior without taking measures to prevent the dispersal of asbestos fibers onto adjacent properties. The indictment also alleges that Cool Cote failed to provide proper respiratory protection for its workers to guard against inhalation of asbestos fibers. According to prosecutors, employees of Cool Cote were aware of the presence of approximately 35 cubic feet of asbestos-containing materials but failed to take appropriate precautions.

The company is defunct, but its president accepted a plea bargain which he was sentenced to six months in prison, six months of home confinement, and three years of probation. The president was also charged with lying to investigators about the presence of materials containing asbestos.

The case was begun by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Both the case and the sentence given to the president are reminders that asbestos is still present in the environment in significant quantities and still remains a significant health hazard.

Source: The State, "SC contractor heading to prison for letting asbestos blow onto beach," David Wren, May 22, 2014

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