Improper asbestos removal leads to criminal charges

This blog has written repeatedly about the criminal and civil liability faced by private parties in North Carolina and elsewhere who undertake renovation or demolition of older buildings without obtaining permits for asbestos removal or using approved asbestos-removal contractors. A case from another state – Washington – underscores hazard created by the improper removal of asbestos-containing products.

The state attorney general filed a criminal complaint against three individuals and a company alleging multiple violations of the state’s clean air laws that govern asbestos removal and demolition. The charges arise out of the renovation of a historic hotel in Spokane. The attorney general alleges that the owners failed to obtain permits from the City of Spokane and failed to hire an approved contractor. The only permit application filed with the city stated only that the owners were going to merely replace, paint and texture drywall. Inspectors for the city and the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency drove by the hotel and spotted piles of debris likely to contain asbestos. Subsequently agency investigators spotted another pile of debris that had remained in the open air for several months. Asbestos fibers can be blown significant distances if exposed to the wind, and on at least one occasion wind gusts in the area were measured at 43 mph.

The defendants’ failure to seek the proper permits and use qualified removal contractors plainly exposed persons in the neighborhood to windborne asbestos fibers. Inhaling such fibers can cause lung cancer and asbestos. One form of lung cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, mesothelioma, is almost always fatal. If convicted the defendants face penalties for each count of 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $5000.

This case, like the other cases involving illegal asbestos removal methods, demonstrates that asbestos product exposure still poses a serious environmental health hazard. Anyone who may have inhaled asbestos fibers should obtain a medical examination by a physician trained to diagnose and treat diseases caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers. Anyone receiving a positive diagnosis should consult an attorney who specializes in pursuing claims for asbestos exposure for an evaluation of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: The Seattle Medium, “AG Files Criminal Charges Against Hotel Owner Over Improper Asbestos Removal,” May 12, 2016