Long Island Construction Company Pleads Guilty to Worker Safety Violation Causing Death of an Employee
Bradley Eberhart, 51, of Garden Valley, Idaho, and Douglas Greiner, 53, of Eagle, Idaho, were sentenced this week in federal court for violating the asbestos work practice standards of the Clean Air Act, announced Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Wendy J. Olson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho.
U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge sentenced Eberhart on Monday to six months in prison plus six months of home confinement, followed by six months of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and restitution of $3.98 million, in joint and several liability. Greiner was also sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement, to be followed by six months of supervised release. The amount of restitution by Greiner will be the subject of further briefing by the parties.
Both defendants previously pleaded guilty on Feb. 26, 2013.
Boise-based Owyhee Construction Inc., was the successful bidder on a $2.1 million waterline renovation project in Orofino, Idaho, a rural community in north central Idaho. Greiner was the project superintendent and Eberhart was the onsite supervisor of the project. The contract documents warned Owyhee Construction that the company may encounter up to 5,000 linear feet of cement asbestos pipe (CAP) during the renovation. CAP is a non-friable form of asbestos that is encapsulated in a cement matrix. When the CAP is broken or crushed by heavy equipment or subjected to cutting and grinding by machinery it becomes subject to regulation because of the threat to public health from airborne fibers.
Eberhart and Greiner failed to properly supervise the renovation. Eberhart supervised employees who were not properly trained in asbestos work and were not properly outfitted with protective gear while cutting CAP with saws. While working in the trenches to replace pipe, workers would remove CAP from the trenches, crush it and then place it back in the trenches. Large quantities of CAP were also removed from the trenches and ended up as fill material on sixteen properties around Orofino. Greiner pleaded guilty to orchestrating one of the disposals. The EPA cleanup cost just under $4 million.
“These prison sentences reflect the serious consequences of the failure of these defendants to comply with EPA’s regulations that protect public health from asbestos, a human carcinogen,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Such criminal acts endanger workers and the community and can, as demonstrated here, cost the federal government millions of dollars to cleanup. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute these crimes.”
“This case demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement and the Department of Justice to ensure the health of our residents,” said U.S. Attorney Olson. “Threats to the environment and to public health may not be readily apparent from a construction project. Renovation projects like these often generate dust with fine asbestos particles that may have the potential to cause serious health and environmental problems if safety precautions are not taken. The full extent of injury from airborne asbestos may not be noticed or diagnosed for years. It is important that companies, their foremen and their operators comply with environmental laws to avoid serious harm.”
“These two Defendants carelessly subjected Orofino residents to asbestos exposure,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Seattle. “In the course of their enterprise, they also created sixteen separate asbestos disposal sites that threatened the community, jeopardized workers and cost taxpayers $4 million to cleanup. Today’s sentence sends a clear message: if you risk people’s lives to save time and money, you will pay the price.”
The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Marc Haws from the District of Idaho and Senior Trial Attorney J. Ronald Sutcliffe of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.