Daniel Desler Pleads Guilty and is Sentenced to Probation for Releasing Asbestos in Sweet Home, Oregon
Eugene, Ore. - Daniel Desler, the managing trustee of Western States Reliance Trust (WSLRT), which was gifted the site of the former Willamette Industries saw mill and multiple outbuildings located in Sweet Home, Oregon (the "Facility"), pleaded guilty today to negligently releasing a hazardous air pollutant into the air. Desler was sentenced to three years of probation. In addition, he will have five months of home confinement and complete 300 hours of community service.
Desler was charged by information with negligent endangerment under the Clean Air Act by negligently releasing or causing to be released a hazardous air pollutant, asbestos, into the air during the demolition of certain building at the Facility. Desler admitted he should have known that there was asbestos in many of the buildings at the Facility but allowed an unlicensed contractor to conduct demolition and renovation work. The demolition and renovation work was done without following the work practice standards contained in the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for asbestos, including but not limited to the following work practice standards: proper removal of any asbestos containing material, wetting any asbestos containing material prior to removal, and proper storage and disposal of any asbestos containing material. The asbestos NESHAP regulations are designed to prevent the release of asbestos into the air during asbestos demolition and renovation activities.
As a result of the way the demolition and renovation was conducted at the Facility, asbestos, a hazardous air pollutant, was released into the ambient air and affected the surrounding community, putting the workers and the people in the surrounding areas at risk for serious bodily harm due to asbestos exposure. Desler negligently caused this release and the potential harm by failing to abate or cause others to abate the asbestos at the Facility.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the area a Superfund site and spent $1,589,752.52 cleaning up the Facility. Desler was ordered to pay full restitution to the EPA for the cleanup costs.
"As a result of Mr. Desler's actions, the community was put at risk and substantial resources were expended to clean up the area," said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall. "Thanks to the work of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the EPA, and Oregon State Police, Mr. Desler will be placed on probation, required to pay the government back for the costs of the cleanup and to serve the community through community service. My office remains committed to the prosecution of environmental crimes."
"Mr. Desler's negligence was not without consequence," said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division in the Northwest. "By failing to follow the law by not hiring trained and licensed asbestos cleanup contractors, he put his workers and the surrounding community at risk of being exposed to asbestos. Had Mr. Desler not chosen profit over protection, a major EPA cleanup could've been avoided."
This investigation was conducted by the Oregon State Police, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and the EPA-Criminal Investigation Division. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy E. Potter and Special Assistant United States Attorney Patrick Flanagan of the Oregon Department of Justice.