Resident of Phoenix, AZ pleads guilty to environmental crimes at industrial facility
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Jeffery L. Springer of Phoenix, Arizona has pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA), the Department of Justice announced today. Springer, owner of an industrial facility in Phoenix, entered guilty pleas in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona for one count of failing to comply with the hazardous materials packaging requirements prior to transporting asbestos and for one count of failing to train his workers in the handling of asbestos and failing to provide the workers with protective gear, during the demolition of a commercial building.
“The defendant in this case put profits before compliance with the law and in the process risked the health and safety of his workers,” said Kelly A. Johnson, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Justice Department takes violations of the laws that protect our environment very seriously and will prosecute criminal violations to the full extent of the law.”
Springer is the former owner of Oljato Industries and its industrial facility, which consisted of several buildings in Phoenix. Between July and September of 2000, Springer hired workers to demolish the buildings at the site but failed to perform the required site survey prior to the demolition. During a separate assessment by local environmental inspectors, it was determined that approximately 2,550 square feet of asbestos existed at the site. Inspectors conducted subsequent inspections during the demolition and noted that Springer was not following several requirements for asbestos removal, including wetting the material or providing workers with the appropriate protective equipment. None of the workers were trained in the handling of asbestos.
Springer faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 per count. Springer could also be ordered to pay $70,000 in restitution to eight victims of exposure to asbestos as well as an additional $5,000 to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to provide education and counseling to the victims.
Paul K. Charlton, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona said, “Asbestos is a known carcinogen. Exposing untrained workers to asbestos is inexcusable.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Paul V. Rood and Ruth A. McQuade, Trial Attorney with the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice. The case was investigated by agents with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Department of Transportation, Inspector General’s office.