Detroit Man Pleads Guilty To Clean Air Act Crimes
A 48-year-old Detroit man pleaded guilty today to criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.
Joining McQuade in the announcement was Randall Ashe, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal enforcement program in Michigan.
Terry Williams pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert H. Cleland. Williams admitted to violating the Clean Air Act in connection with dismantling and scrapping the former AMC headquarters on Plymouth Road in Detroit. In 2012, Williams hired crews to remove salvageable metal from the facility. They disturbed asbestos-containing materials and released ozone-depleting substances. Williams’ crews dismantled at least 50 air conditioning units, including many large rooftop units, releasing R-22 refrigerant into the environment.
Williams also arranged for other fixtures on the property to be scrapped, ordering crews to cut and remove pipes he knew to be insulated with regulated asbestos-containing insulation. These insulated pipes were removed without following the work practice requirements under federal asbestos regulations, including failing to properly wet the asbestos containing materials to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne and failing to secure the materials for proper disposal.
“Exposure to asbestos can lead to serious diseases, and the defendant’s unsafe asbestos removal practices put the health of his workers and the public at risk,” said Ashe. “This defendant also chose to ignore the hazards of releasing ozone depleting substances, potentially causing harm to both human health and the environment. Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that those who knowingly engage in such conduct will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
“Prosecutions like this one are important to protect the people of Detroit from contaminants in the air,” McQuade said. “Environmental enforcement is a high priority for our office so that we can preserve Michigan’s best assets – its clean air and water.”
The crimes to which the defendant pleaded guilty are punishable by a maximum sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both.
The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Michigan by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Gorland and Special Assistant United States Attorney David Mucha. The case was investigated by agents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division.