Man Sentenced for Illegal Asbestos Removal at his Property
The man who illegally removed asbestos at his Westinghouse facility has been sentenced in court. He was sentenced to one month of prison, nine months of house arrest, and three years of probation. The man is a resident of Mt Lebanon and is a commercial and residential real estate developer. He plead guilty to violating the clean air act knowingly.
Untrained workers removed 130,000 square feet of asbestos floor pipe and disposed of it improperly. While handling and grinding the asbestos containing products, the workers were not given protective breathing masks or protective clothing. This is very dangerous because once asbestos becomes airborne, it can be easily inhaled and lodged in people’s lungs. Asbestos is a dangerous material and can lead to people developing lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other cancers.
Allegheny County Health Department officials as well as Churchill officials accused the developer of allowing his workers to improperly remove the asbestos. This project was supposed to cost millions of dollars but was shut down when the man was accused and later tried to cover up and even destroy evidence of his actions. He was fined 1.5 million dollars, but the fine is under appeal.
The sentence given to the developer is much lower than the recommended sentences. Federal guidelines suggest 12 to 18 months of imprisonment while the U.S Attorney’s office suggested six to nine months. He will be serving his sentence starting September 1st to allow the COVID-19 situation to pass. The maximum sentence for criminally violating the Clean Air Act is a maximum five year sentence in prison and a fine between $5,500 and $55,000 in addition to restitution for any victims.
The assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan wanted significant incarceration because the developer knew about asbestos at the worksite and knowingly used untrained, unprotected, and undocumented workers to remove the carcinogen. People who do not remove and handle asbestos properly can seriously injure themselves and others. The developer also tried to mislead the county officials investigating the issue.
According to Olshan, prison time is appropriate because the developer is college educated and also attended medical school. He had a choice and knowingly broke the law and tried to cover it up. The developer’s attorney is seeking no prison time based on his remediation of asbestos at one of the Westinghouse buildings and will be doing the same for another building that he lost money selling.
He is imprisoned based on the fact that he endangered the lives of his workers. Tenants of his wrote letters of approval and support, which the judge used to consider sentencing.
Don Hopey, “Developer who illegally removed asbestos from former Westinghouse facility in Churchill sentenced” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (March 18, 2020). [Link]