Asbestos exposure lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the illegal dumping of hazardous and toxic materials, including asbestos, is threatening the health and wellbeing of residents of California’s Bay Area. Specifically, residents of Bayview have been hit the hardest, and are now voluntarily setting up sting operations to catch the culprits.
There are dozens of stings set up around Bayview, where members of the community stake out in incognito vans and trucks, behind warehouses and the like, to find whoever has been dumping the piles of toxic waste. Many of them wait all night, drinking coffee or Red Bull and waiting, with a low-light video camera, for the culprits to arrive.
Undercover police officers wait nearby incase the volunteers, many of whom work for the Department of Public Works, have anything to report. The targets for these operations are individual contractors and their hauling companies who attempt to evade federal and state law by dumping toxic waste, such as asbestos, lead and paint, into the community.
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Properly disposing of such waste can be extremely costly; for example, in 2011, a trucking company and roofing service dumped asbestos materials in Bayview, which cost the city $60,000 to clean up. After this incident, legislators in the Bay Area amended state law to specify the definition of ‘debris’ and allow cities to file lawsuits against illegal dumpers to recover cleanup costs.
The Department of Public Works received over 22,000 reports of illegal dumping in 2012, after which the California Integrated Waste Management Board granted Bayview $300,000 to monitor dumping hotspots. The 25 hotspots in Bayview are primarily located off dead-end streets or in unlighted areas, where people are less likely to catch them unloading.
In August 2013, the city sued a 61-year-old San Francisco man for illegally dumping over 20 containers of oil and paint in Bayview. It is significantly more difficult to catch and charge companies with illegal dumping, however, because they are becoming increasingly sophisticated, are familiar with the area, and always make sure they do not unload anything that has their name or address on it.
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In Oakland, city council recently asked regulators to increase the penalties for illegal dumpers to make the crime a misdemeanor (it is currently just an infraction, though punishable by an average of three to four thousand dollars). In 2011 alone the city spent $3.2 million to clean up illegal toxic waste from its streets and parks. Bayview’s costs total around $4 million a year.
In true Silicon Valley style, the area also recently developed a mobile app to help catch and report violators, called See, Click, Fix. The Department of Public Works is also taking other measures to address the problem, including educating residents and shifting cleanup costs to local waste collectors.
Dumping asbestos waste to avoid high removal costs is not exclusive to the West Coast. In upper New York, for example, a man was recently sentenced in federal court for conspiring to commit fraud in connection to an illegal dumping scheme. The man, 59-year-old Jonathan Deck, will serve 15 months in prison for his plans to dump thousands of tons of asbestos-containing construction materials near the state’s Mohawk River.
Deck was the last to be sentenced in a series of prosecutions that included five men and two companies (Eagle Recycling, Mazza & Sons Inc.). The group conspired, over a five-year period, to unload more than 400 truckloads of asbestos waste in a property on the Mohawk River near Frankfort, New York. Conspirators even recruited others to join by faking a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation permit and forging the name of a state official. The 400-truckload cleanup is still ongoing, and costs will range into the millions.
Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm understand that the threat of exposure to asbestos in a community may seem overwhelming. It has been estimated that about 1.3 million U.S. employees in construction and general industry have been exposed to asbestos exposure at some point. Exposure can lead to several types of cancer, including extremely fatal cases of lung cancer and mesothelioma, so if you believe you have been exposed, and were diagnosed with a related illness, contact an experienced attorney immediately.