Heritage-Crystal Clean LLC to Pay More Than $1.1 Million in Penalties and Implement Compliance Measures for Violations of Hazardous Waste Regulations
Kristofer Landell and Stephanie Laskin were sentenced today before U.S. District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy sitting in Binghamton, New York, for conspiring to violate Clean Air Act regulations that control the safe removal, handling and disposal of asbestos.
Judge McAvoy sentenced Landell and Laskin to eight months and ten months of incarceration respectively, as well as three years of supervised release, during which time defendants must surrender any asbestos-related licenses. Co-defendants Roger Osterhoudt, Gunay Yakup and Madeline Alonge were all sentenced to three years’ probation in early November. All five defendants were further ordered to pay approximately $399,000 in restitution to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its costs related to cleaning up the now-contaminated site in Kingston, New York, known as the “Tech City property.” The defendants may also be ordered to pay additional monies to members of the community who were potentially exposed to hazardous air pollutants as a result of the defendants’ conspiracy.
According to court-filed documents, Landell, Laskin, Yakup, and Alonge engaged in a year-long conspiracy to violate federal and New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) regulations intended to prevent human exposure to asbestos. More specifically, between 2015 and 2016, Landell and Laskin both permitted, and in some cases directed, abatement workers to remove asbestos from the TechCity Property illegally by stripping regulated asbestos containing materials without properly containing the work area and removing the asbestos dry, thus allowing airborne fibers to escape into the surrounding environment. In an effort to conceal those crimes, Landell, acting in his capacity as an air- and project-monitor, concealed these violations by fabricating and falsifying paperwork required by EPA and the State of New York. The conspirators also engaged in other efforts to deceive authorities, such as by failing to conduct air-monitoring and falsifying at least one NYSDOL-required “final air clearance.” Despite the defendants’ efforts to conceal their crimes, NYSDOL inspectors found numerous violations during the course of the year-long project and issued notices of violation. Conditions at the TechCity Property deteriorated until NYSDOL shut down operations in August 2016 and directed the defendants and their companies to cease all work. Notwithstanding this NYSDOL order, the defendants continued operations for a short time, prompting a criminal investigation.
In his plea agreement, Osterhoudt, the Vice President of Property Management for TechCity, admitted that as a result of the defendants’ illegal asbestos removal, there was likely a release of asbestos contamination into the environment that placed others at an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury. Asbestos has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease. Given that EPA has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, the United States has endeavored to identify all those persons in close proximity to the illegal asbestos operations during the TechCity project and is seeking restitution on behalf of all those potentially exposed to airborne asbestos contamination during the relevant time period. That process is ongoing.
Special agents of the EPA investigated the case with the assistance of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and information provided by the NYSDOL Asbestos Control Bureau and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The case was prosecuted by Todd W. Gleason and Gary N. Donner of the Environmental Crimes Section.