A judge has sentenced five owners and managers of a Tennessee business to prison for illegal asbestos removal, including not providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers handling cancer-causing materials.
The case involves the illegal removal and disposal of asbestos-containing material at the former Liberty Fibert Plant in Hamblen County, TN. A&E Salvage bought the plant to salvage metals from the plant after it ceased operations.
- Mark Sawyer, owner and operator, 5 years in prison followed by 2 years of supervised release
- Newell Smith, manager, 37 months (3 years, 1 month) in prison and 2 years of supervised release
- Eric Gruenberg, manager, 28 months (2 years, 4 months) in prison
- Armida DiSanti, 6 months in prison and 6 months of home confinement, and
- Milto DiSanti, 6 months in prison and 6 months of home confinement.
The judge also ordered all five to pay a total of more than $10.3 million in restitution, which will be returned to the EPA Superfund, which paid for cleanup of the plant site.
Expert testimony at sentencing predicted the exposures of the A&E Salvage workers to asbestos would result in the substantial likelihood that they would suffer death or serious bodily injury.
All five managers pleaded guilty to one criminal felony count of conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act’s work practice standards regarding proper stripping, bagging, removal and disposal of asbestos.
According to the charges, this was a multi-year scheme in which substantial amounts of asbestos-containing materials were removed in illegal manners, including without providing workers with the necessary PPE.
Asbestos has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a fatal disease. The EPA says there is no safe exposure level to fibrous asbestos.
“The defendants conspired to violate the Clean Air Act by hiring untrained workers to remove materials, without proper safety equipment, that contained asbestos,” said Special Agent inn Charge Maureen O’Mara of EPA’s Criminal Enforcement Program in Tennessee. “This put not only the workers’ health and safety at great risk, but that of the entire community.”