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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Idaho

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Idaho Corporation Fined For Criminal Asbestos Violations

Waterline Renovation Project Led to $3,980,000 Cleanup

BOISE — Owyhee Construction Incorporated, a Boise-based corporation, was sentenced to three years of probation for violating the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). District Judge Edward J. Lodge also fined Owyhee Construction $100,000, ordered it to implement a compliance and ethics program, and pay restitution. Two employees of Owyhee Construction were previously sentenced to prison terms for acts related to the disposal of asbestos.

Owyhee Construction Inc., was the successful bidder on a $3 million waterline renovation project in Orofino, Idaho, a rural community in north central Idaho. The contract documents warned Owyhee Construction that the company may encounter up to 5,000 linear feet of cement asbestos pipe (CAP) during the renovation. CAP is a non-friable form of asbestos that is encapsulated in a cement matrix. When the CAP is broken or crushed by heavy equipment or subjected to cutting and grinding by machinery, it becomes subject to regulation because of the threat to public health from airborne fibers.

The onsite manager and foreman failed to properly supervise the renovation. While working in the trenches to replace pipe, workers removed CAP from the trenches which ended up as part of fill material on sixteen properties around Orofino. Owyhee Construction never reported the releases of the asbestos. The EPA cleanup cost is just under $4 million. Owyhee Construction was ordered to pay restitution to the EPA based on resolution of a civil suit currently under way with other potentially responsible parties.

Wendy Olson, United States Attorney for the District of Idaho said, “Businesses have a firm, and in this case contractual, obligation to handle harmful materials with care and in compliance with environmental regulations that protect the public from unknowing harm. This case should send the strong message that those who fail to meet these obligations will be investigated, caught and punished.”

Tyler Amon Special Agent in Charge for EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Seattle said, “Deceived into thinking Owyhee Construction had provided them with ‘clean fill,’ citizens and businesses of Orofino used the material to fill their, driveways and yards. The result: a contaminated mixture of crushed pipe and debris laced with harmful asbestos spread over 16 separate sites at a cost of $4 million to taxpayers. Egregious, unlawful conduct has a consequence.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney, D. Marc Haws from the District of Idaho and Senior Trial Attorney J. Ronald Sutcliffe of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.