A New Jersey contractor was recently charged with conspiracy and six counts of Clean Air Act violations. The man was sentenced to three years probation, including six months of home confinement, after he improperly removed several hundred feet of asbestos-containing insulation. Mesothelioma attorneys remind the public that, although asbestos mining was banned in the United States, asbestos exposure is still a significant public health concern.
The contractor, Vele Bozinoski of Elmwood Park, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to violating federal asbestos work practice standards as well as conspiring with others to commit the offense. The illegal acts began in early 2007, when Bozinoski hired several workers to help him remove insulation from the former Garden State Paper Mill in the New Jersey town of Garfield. The facility was built in 1961, before any regulations regarding the use of asbestos were put in place, and closed in 2001. Demolition of the building began in 2008, as the city made plans for a housing development on the site.
The former paper mill contained more than 160 feet of asbestos-contaminated material. Bozinoski and his workers failed to comply with federal regulations that require a thorough inspection of facilities undergoing construction for the presence of asbestos. He also failed to notify the EPA of the asbestos-containing material, which is required prior to any renovation or demolition.
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Regulations require anyone involved in removing or renovating asbestos-containing material to wet it down in order to prevent the harmful fibers from becoming airborne. Asbestos fibers are most dangerous when they are inhaled, and directly lead to development of serious and often fatal diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Wetting down the material helps prevent fiber inhalation. Asbestos work practice standards also require the material to be sealed in airtight, leak-proof containers, and disposed of at pre-approved locations.
Bozinoski failed to follow all of these guidelines, potentially allowing asbestos fibers to become airborne and infecting the lungs of not only himself and his workers, but the general public in the surrounding area as well. The paper millinvestigation was headed by special agents of the FBI.
In a similar New Jersey case, two other men and their demolition company were recently indicted for unlicensed and unsafe asbestos removal at the former Zurbrugg Memorial Hospital in Riverside. They were performing the work without a license and were using workers who were neither trained nor equipped to do the job safely. They were charged with conspiracy, unlawfully causing the release of a toxic pollutant, abandonment of toxic pollutants, and violating the Asbestos Control and Licensing Act.
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The men allegedly directed the unlicensed workers (some of them inmates from a halfway house) to remove asbestos-containing material, put it in bags, and either bury the bags, dump them on the floor of the hospital boiler room, or otherwise unlawfully dispose of them. They were attempting to strip the asbestos insulation from copper and steel pipes and other materials to be salvaged for profit. The men knew the material in the bags was laden with asbestos, and are facing up to five to ten years in state prison and fines up to $150,000. The EPA now has jurisdiction over both the hospital and paper mill factory sites and is planning the necessary remediations.
Asbestos exposure attorneys are concerned that both New Jersey sites are in close proximity to neighborhoods. Many surrounding residents say they long suspected the presence of toxic substances on the sites. The men are being charges with serious crimes for putting their own monetary self-interest ahead of the safety of their workers and neighbors. If you or someone you love was the victim of asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation, and should contact an asbestos exposure attorney immediately for a free legal evaluation.