A developer in Oregon attempted to build up lavish housing and artist complexes on 400 to 600 acres of land. The land was once owned and operated by a sawmill, which included several old, degenerated buildings near a residential area. Like nearly all old buildings, especially industrial facilities, the sawmill sites contained large amounts of asbestos. The mineral was used abundantly in the United States until the late 1970s, when the adverse health effects were medically and scientifically proven.
Asbestos exposure attorneys remind Oregon residents that inhaling asbestos leads to numerous fatal diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. The danger posed by disturbing old and eroding asbestos lies in the fact that it is odorless, tasteless, and invisible to the naked eye. Asbestos fibers are able to suspend in the air for long periods, carried by the wind, and inhalation often goes unnoticed. Asbestos fibers do not dissolve in water or break down into other compounds in the environment. The mineral was found at the site in 2004, when a fire broke out and local firefighters reported to state agencies of debris that appeared to contain asbestos. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reportedly told the developers about the contamination, though did not complete any abatement work.
Daniel Desler, the managing trustee of Western States Reliance Trust (WSLRT), which was gifted the site of the former Willamette Industries saw mill and multiple outbuildings located in Sweet Home, Oregon (the Facility), pleaded guilty to negligently releasing a hazardous air pollutant into the air. Desler was sentenced to three years of probation. In addition, he will have five months of home confinement and complete 300 hours of community service.
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Desler was charged by information with negligent endangerment under the Clean Air Act by negligently releasing or causing to be released a hazardous air pollutant, asbestos, into the air during the demolition of certain building at the Facility. Desler admitted he should have known that there was asbestos in many of the buildings at the Facility but allowed an unlicensed contractor to conduct demolition and renovation work. The demolition and renovation work was done without following the work practice standards contained in the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for asbestos, including but not limited to the following work practice standards: proper removal of any asbestos containing material, wetting any asbestos containing material prior to removal, and proper storage and disposal of any asbestos containing material. The asbestos NESHAP regulations are designed to prevent the release of asbestos into the air during asbestos demolition and renovation activities.
As a result of the way the demolition and renovation was conducted at the Facility, asbestos was released into the ambient air and affected the surrounding community, putting the workers and the people in the surrounding areas at risk for serious bodily harm due to asbestos exposure.
The EPA declared the area a Superfund site and spent over $1,500,000 cleaning up the Facility. Desler was ordered to pay full restitution to the EPA for the cleanup costs.
As a result of Mr. Desler’s actions, the community was put at risk and substantial resources were expended to clean up the area. Thanks to the work of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the EPA, and Oregon State Police, Mr. Desler will be placed on probation, required to pay the government back for the costs of the cleanup and to serve the community through community service.
This investigation was conducted by the Oregon State Police, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and the EPA-Criminal Investigation Division.
Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm hope that reports of cases like this deter future asbestos risks. Individuals and corporations have always attempted to take short cuts for monetary gain. These should not, however, endanger the health of any innocent bystander. If you suspect exposure to asbestos and developed a related disease, you may have a legal claim. Contact one of our skilled asbestos attorneys immediately for a free legal consultation.