More than $1M in fines over illegal asbestos dumping

More than $1M in fines over illegal asbestos dumping

The Allegheny County Health Department in Pennsylvania has fined an asbestos contractor more than $1 million over illegal asbestos disposal while renovating a property in Churchill, just outside of Pittsburgh.

Ramesh Jain and his son, Vikas, and the two companies they were involved in have been fighting the fine since 2017, and in January, the appeal was dismissed, beginning the 30 days the two have to pay the fine to the local county’s clean air fund.

In February 2017, a building inspector observed people removing asbestos-containing material from the property in question. The Health Department then placed an enforcement order to cease all demolition work, which the two defendants appealed. The subsequent investigation resulted in charges being filed against the two men.

Additionally, Vikas Jain faced additional charges in federal court, which included knowingly violating the Clean Air Act (illegal asbestos removal) and, following a guilty plea, was sentenced to a one-month prison sentence and a period of supervised release.

“(Vikas Jain) fully accepts responsibility for his conduct,” one of Jain’s attorneys said in a federal court document. “He feels deep remorse for any harm he has caused. He has taken redemptive action to correct any problems that he may have caused. This includes, but is not limited to, being committed to paying over $1 million to remediate the asbestos issues at the property in question.”

An environmental group labelled the actions of the contractor in dumping asbestos-containing material as “unconscionable”, and said that the volume of the fine was “a victory for public health.”

“Their reckless behaviour put not only their own workers but also an unknown number of Allegheny County residents at risk of exposure to asbestos,” said Patrick Campbell, executive director of the local organisation, Group Against Smog and Pollution.

“We hope this case serves as a cautionary tale for businesses tempted to skirt asbestos-abatement regulations put in place to help protect our air quality and the health of both workers and members of the public.”

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