Canton Businessman Sentenced To Prison For Violating The Clean Air Act
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Anthony Michael Davis, 34, of Canton, Michigan, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for violating the federal Clean Air Act, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles announced today. U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell also ordered Davis to pay $168,029.59 in restitution to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and serve two years of supervised release following his release from prison.
Davis purchased a former paper mill in Otsego, Michigan to salvage valuable scrap material from a powerhouse building containing large boilers and turbines. Davis knew that asbestos-containing insulation was present in the powerhouse because certain insulation carried warning labels stating: “Hazardous Substance Asbestos.” A representative of the former owner of the Otsego paper mill also warned Davis of the asbestos in the powerhouse and recommended an asbestos inspection before removing anything from the structure. Despite those warnings, and in an effort to cut costs, Davis failed to conduct a thorough asbestos inspection. Additionally, he paid laborers to scrap materials from the powerhouse without following basic rules of asbestos removal, such as wetting the asbestos with water prior to its removal until it is collected and contained for proper disposal. The salvage operation resulted in the release of a significant quantity of asbestos-containing insulation onto multiple floors of the building, which was open to the outside environment.
At sentencing, the court stated that the defendant’s offense was “serious” and that his actions endangered the health of those who live and work near the paper mill in Otsego. The court also found troubling the defendant’s misrepresentations to state investigators when he initially claimed that he did not know he was dealing with asbestos in the powerhouse.
U.S. Attorney Miles said, “Davis exposed his workers and the public to dangerous asbestos fibers that have been shown to cause serious illnesses like lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases. Some of his workers wore their dirty clothes and shoes into their homes, potentially exposing their family to the dangers presented by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. The court’s sentence should send a clear message to those who seek increased profits at the expense of the environment and the health and safety of others.”
“Exposure to asbestos can be fatal. Its unsafe and illegal disposal endangers human health and can seriously harm the environment,” said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Michigan. “The defendant failed to comply with regulations that would have shown the extent to which the building contained asbestos-contaminated material. This case should serve notice that EPA and its partner agencies will prosecute those who ‘cut corners’ by avoiding the costs of handling or disposing of asbestos properly.”
The case was investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Environmental Investigation Section. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.
The investigation of this case was the result of a confidential tip. If Michigan residents suspect a possible violation of environmental laws or regulations, they are encouraged to call the U.S. EPA hotline at 1-800-621-8431, or submit a tip on the Internet at www.epa.gov/tips.