Company convicted of Clean Air Act Asbestos crime
Anchorage, Alaska B U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler announced that Copper River Campus, LLC, an Alaska company, pled guilty and was convicted of violating the federal Clean Air Act for negligently endangering others when it released hazardous asbestos into the ambient air at its property on 5th Avenue in Anchorage.
Chief District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline sentenced Copper River Campus to pay a $70,000 fine and to serve three years on probation. As part of the sentence, imposed on Monday of this week, the Court also ordered Copper River Campus to contract with an environmental consultant to insure that no further violations of environmental laws and safety standards occur in the future.
Copper River Campus owns and manages the property and buildings occupied and used by Copper River Seafoods, Inc. located at 1118 East 5th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska. Defendant Copper River Campus purchased the property and buildings in 2009 knowing that the buildings had asbestos containing materials within the walls, ceilings and floors, and that special handling and disposal of these materials would be required if the buildings were going to be renovated or demolished.
After Copper River Campus purchased the properties, and with knowledge of the existence of asbestos containing materials in the two buildings, the defendant instructed an employee of Copper River Seafoods to demolish the older building on the property, and other employees to begin renovation work on the newer building, including removing the first level flooring. The employee was given the instructions to proceed with the demolition by managers that did not know about the asbestos problem in the building. The employee who proceeded with the demolition likewise did not know about the existence of asbestos in the building.
On March 16, 2010, upon direction of Copper River Campus, a Copper River Seafoods employee used a backhoe to begin demolishing the older building without taking any steps to wet down or otherwise safely remove the asbestos containing materials in the building. The backhoe operator did not have any special environmental training, and was not wearing any personal protective equipment. That same day, the Environmental Protection Agency received a call alerting it to the defendant’s activities and sent an air inspector to the property. The demolition work was halted, and the pile of debris from the partially torn-down building was watered down. Prior to the starting, Copper River Campus never notified the EPA about the demolition and renovation work being conducted, or about the existence of regulated asbestos containing materials in the two buildings on the property.
The next day, EPA inspectors returned to the property and observed employees using electric grinders to grind off the flooring in the newer building, including grinding of the asbestos floor mastic. These employees did not have any specialized training and were not wearing personal protective equipment. The floor grinding and renovation work on this building were halted thereafter.
The building demolition and floor grinding conducted by Copper River Campus negligently released a hazardous air pollutant into the ambient air both inside and outside of the two buildings, specifically friable chrysotile asbestos. As a result, Copper River Campus negligently placed employees of Copper River Seafoods and others in imminent danger of serious bodily injury. While no specific individual has been identified who has suffered any harm from the release, the release of friable asbestos into the ambient air created the risk that people could have suffered serious illness due to asbestos inhalation.
The investigation was conducted by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.