September 7, 2016
District of Columbia Man Pleads Guilty to Improperly Removing and Disposing of Asbestos Materials
On September 7, 2016, James Powers of Washington, DC, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Washington, DC, to violating the Clean Air Act for his role in a scheme to improperly remove asbestos from a historic building in the District of Columbia.
The development project at issue involved the renovation of the historic Friendship House, 619 D Street SE, into condominiums, a development known as the Maples. According to the statement of offense submitted as part of the guilty plea, in March 2010, Powers formed a partnership with a local real estate development firm to purchase and renovate the property. A survey documented asbestos throughout the property, including in floor tiles, wall board, and pipe insulation.
The partnership received bids from licensed professional asbestos abatement and renovation firms in the area. However, Powers hired Larry Miller of Palmetto, Georgia, an Atlanta-based general contractor with no training, certification, or experience in asbestos abatement, to conduct the interior demolition and renovation of the building. The written contract with Miller specifically excluded removal of asbestos from the property. Powers told Miller that the asbestos would be abated by another contractor and did not fully inform him about the extent of asbestos in the property.
Between August 2011 and October 2011, Miller and his crew conducted interior demolition at the Maples, without the asbestos abatement required under the Clean Air Act. Powers also contracted with a waste disposal company to transport construction debris from the Maples off-site. He failed to inform the company that the debris contained asbestos, and it was not taken to a site qualified to receive asbestos waste.
DOT-OIG is conducting this investigation with the Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division.