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Jury Convicts Kankakee Area Man for Clean Air Act Violations involving Asbestos

September 27, 2011

Urbana, Ill. – A federal jury deliberated for less than two hours yesterday before returning guilty verdicts against Duane “Butch” O’Malley, owner of Origin Fire Protection, for the illegal removal, handling and disposal of asbestos from a Kankakee building in August 2009. Sentencing for O’Malley is scheduled for Jan. 5, 2012.

O’Malley, 59, of the 5600 block of North 5000 E Road, Bourbonnais, was charged in June 2010 with five felony violations of the Clean Air Act, along with Michael J. Pinski, 42, of Kankakee, and James A. Mikrut, 49, of Manteno. Pinski entered a plea of guilty on Aug. 19, to one count of violation of the Clean Air Act; Mikrut pled guilty on Aug. 24, to five counts of violation of the Act. Pinski and Mikrut are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 2, and Dec. 21, 2011, respectively.

During O’Malley’s trial, which began on Sept. 21, the government presented evidence that O’Malley, owner and operator of Origin Fire Protection, was hired by Pinski in August 2009 to remove asbestos-containing insulation from pipes in a five-story building at 197 South West Ave., in Kankakee, that was owned by Pinski through his company, Dearborn Management, Inc. Evidence was presented that neither O’Malley nor his company was trained to perform the asbestos removal work and that O’Malley agreed to remove the asbestos insulation for an amount that was substantially less than a trained asbestos abatement contractor would have charged to perform the work. Further, O’Malley arranged for Mikrut to recruit and oversee workers to remove the asbestos.

The government’s evidence showed that various provisions of the Clean Air Act and EPA regulations were violated, including: failure to properly notify the EPA; failure to have trained on-site representatives present; failure to ensure the asbestos insulation was adequately wetted while it was being stripped and removed; failure to mark vehicles used to transport the asbestos-containing waste material; and, failure to deposit the asbestos in a waste disposal site for asbestos. Instead, the asbestos insulation was placed in more than 100 large, unlabeled plastic garbage bags, which were dumped in an open field in Hopkins Park, resulting in asbestos contamination in the soil.

Under provisions of the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has promulgated rules, regulations and requirements to control the removal, handling and disposal of asbestos, a hazardous air pollutant. Any owner or operator of a renovation or demolition activity which involves removal of specified amounts of asbestos-containing material must comply with the EPA regulations.

“To increase profits, O’Malley knowingly disregarded environmental laws and exposed workers, the public, and the environment to dangerous airborne asbestos fibers,” said Central District of Illinois U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis. “The jury has appropriately held the defendant accountable for his illegal actions.”

"Exposure to asbestos can cause serious -- even fatal -- illnesses, so it must be removed safely and legally," said Randy Ashe, Special Agent-in-Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement office in Chicago. "This conviction by a jury shows that the public will not tolerate those who break the law and put the public at risk in order to make illegal profits."

At sentencing, the penalty for each violation of the Clean Air Act is up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The charges were investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from the Illinois Environmental protection Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene L. Miller and U.S. EPA attorney James Cha are prosecuting the case.

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