John Mills and Terrance Allen, both of Malone, N.Y., pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Albany, N.Y., to conspiracy to violate the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and substantive CERCLA counts in relation to the illegal removal, handling, and disposal of asbestos from properties owned and operated by John Mills, announced Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.
Mills and Allen were charged in an 11-count indictment alleging a conspiracy to impede the functions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and to violate the Clean Air Act and CERCLA, along with substantive violations of the Clean Air Act and CERCLA. The indictment further charged Mills and Allen with making false statements to law enforcement officers and Mills with retaliating against a witness. CERCLA requires that owners and operators of regulated facilities notify the National Response Center immediately after becoming aware of the release of more than one pound of asbestos into the environment.
Mills and Allen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate CERCLA. Mills also pleaded guilty to two counts of knowingly violating CERCLA for failing to immediately report the release of more than a pound of asbestos from properties owned by Mills. In addition to the conspiracy, Allen pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly violating CERCLA.
In open court Tuesday, Mills and Allen admitted that they knowingly failed to report to the National Response Center the release of asbestos, in the form of thermal system insulation, or “pipe wrap,” that had been removed from the basement of buildings owned and operated by John Mills, as soon as they knew of the release. According to the indictment, the defendants illegally removed and disposed of more than 260 linear feet of pipe wrap containing asbestos. The defendants directed an employee to remove the asbestos containing pipe wrap without warning him or giving him adequate personal protective equipment. They transported and caused others to transport that pipe wrap, which was in open bags, in the open bed of a pickup truck.
They further admitted that they conspired together to violate CERCLA. The asbestos pipe wrap was deposited by the defendants in a UHaul-style box truck owned by Mills and a shed maintained by the Malone Department of Public Works in an effort to conceal the material from authorities.
Conspiracy to violate CERCLA carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by in Albany on May 12, 2014.
The investigation was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and the New York State Department of Labor Asbestos Control Bureau with assistance from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Malone Police Department, and the Malone Department of Public Works. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Gary N. Donner and Lana N. Pettus, paralegal Puja Moozhikkattu, and litigation support specialist Elga Ozols of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.