Two men who reportedly turned a New York farm and wetlands into their own personal asbestos dump site are now facing years behind bars, according to various local news reports. In fact, it is believed they dumped some 60-million pounds of asbestos-containing debris at the site.
Mesothelioma lawyers know that not only were these acts irresponsible, they posed a huge health risk to both employees and residents in the immediate vicinity. Asbestos is the known cause of both asbestosis and mesothelioma, which are both deadly and preventable.
While asbestos isn’t widely used in the U.S. any longer, it is still found in many older structures, remnants of a time when it was used in many different kinds of building materials, from floor to roofing to insulation. The cost of removing this deadly toxin has led many companies — and far too many asbestos removal agencies — to cut corners, which is creating a new generation of risk for all involved.
It isn’t especially harmful unless disturbed, causing the fibers to become airborne. Because there is no “safe level” of asbestos exposure, contractors, building owners and others are required to dispose of it according to very specific safety guidelines.
According to local media reports, the two primary offending individuals were the owner of a nearly 30-acre farm and the owner of a solid waste management company. Others were implicated as well.
According to federal authorities, the defendants reportedly transported the debris from New Jersey. They dumped it at the site after putting it through an industrial shredder – failing to remove the asbestos first.
During the course of their operation, thousands of tons of construction debris were dumped onto the farmland and on land that is designated federally-protected wetlands. None of the individuals involved had a permit to carry out such an operation.
When the New York Department of Environmental Conservation caught wind of what was happening, those involved allegedly forged a permit, as well as the name of a DEC official on that permit. Authorities said they also obstructed justice by hiding and destroying numerous documents after said documents were subpoenaed by a grand jury.
In doing so, the individuals were not only found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., they were found guilty of violating the Clean Water Act and Superfund laws. If you aren’t familiar, the latter was enacted in 1980 as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. It was amended in 1986 and again in 2002, and essentially seeks to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. When individuals commit illegal dumping of hazardous materials, such as asbestos, the government in turn must take responsibility to clean it up so that it no longer poses a substantial risk to those in the vicinity.
These charges carry maximum penalties of five years each, along with a fine of whichever is the greatest among:
- Twice the gross gain of the defendant;
- Twice the gross loss of the victim.
While the majority of mesothelioma cases involve individuals who were exposed to asbestos during the course of their work or lives many years ago, this case demonstrates unfortunately we will continue to see such cases for many years to come.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling (888) 554-2030. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.