Former Foreman Pleads Guilty to Violating Clean Air Act
Edward K. Durst Did Not Follow Regulations While Overseeing Removal Of Asbestos-Containing Materials From Virginia Tech Building
ROANOKE, VIRGINIA -- The former foreman of an asbestos company, hired to remove asbestos-containing materials from Virginia Tech’s Cowgill Hall in 2007, pled guilty this morning in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Roanoke for violating the Clean Air Act.
Edward K. Durst, 52, of Richmond, Va., was charged in a five count indictment in October 2012. Durst pled guilty, today, to one count of knowingly disposing of and causing the disposal of, regulated asbestos-containing materials in violation of the Clean Air Act and the federal regulations regarding proper handling of asbestos.
“The Clean Air Act requires construction officials to follow basic rules that ensure a safe and clean environment for future generations,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “When individuals like Mr. Durst violate this important environmental protection, this office and the Blue Ridge Environmental Task Force will hold them criminally accountable.”
"Asbestos is a known carcinogen, can cause other fatal diseases and has no safe exposure level,” said David G. McLeod, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Virginia. “The defendant directed workers to sell the window frames to a recycling center rather than taking them to a facility equipped to handle hazardous wastes safely and legally. Unsafe disposal of any hazardous material endangers human health. This way of ‘doing business’ is both dangerous and criminal. EPA and its partner agencies will vigorously prosecute those who place profit ahead of public health and the environment.”
According to evidence presented at today’s hearing by Special Assistant United States Attorney David Lastra and Assistant United States Attorney Jennie Waering, Durst’s former employer, an asbestos abatement company, was hired to oversee the removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials from Cowgill Hall on the campus of Virginia Tech in 2007. The materials were aluminum window frames with asbestos glazing.
Instead of properly handling, transporting and disposing of those materials, in compliance with the Clean Air Act, Durst, instructed others to remove and dispose of the window frames from a designated asbestos waste container and load them into unlabeled vehicles. Durst later instructed others to transport those materials to a metal recycling facility and kept the cash payments for the scrap aluminum.
At sentencing, the maximum possible penalty faced by the defendant is up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
The investigation of the case began when the president of the asbestos abatement company became aware of Durst’s conduct and contacted the Virginia Tech Police Department. The federal investigation was conducted by the Blue Ridge Environmental Task Force, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Inspector General United States Housing and Urban Development, the Virginia Tech Police Department and the Christiansburg Police Department. Special Assistant United States Attorney David Lastra (EPA Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel) and United States Attorney Jennie L.M. Waering are prosecuting the case for the United States.