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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Certified Environmental Services, Inc. Ordered To Pay Over $409,000 For Negligent Endangerment

UTICA, NEW YORK – Certified Environmental Services, Inc. (“CES”) was sentenced today to 5 years of probation, and to make restitution in the amount of $409,829.67, for negligently releasing asbestos into the ambient air, thereby placing other persons in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, announced United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian. 

U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd credited CES for prior restitution payments of $87,960.06 and ordered CES to make an initial lump-sum payment of $100,000 toward its restitution obligation, and then pay monthly installments of $2,000 or 10% of CES’s net monthly cash flow, whichever is greater. Judge Hurd also credited CES for time already served on its 5-year probation sentence.

United States Attorney Hartunian said, “CES was paid to conduct proper air monitoring to preserve the basic right to clean air when asbestos was removed from homes and other buildings.  It was the gatekeeper for the environment, but violated requirements and provided final clearances when asbestos contamination remained.  This was cutting corners with consequences – the release of dangerous, toxic asbestos fibers into the air.  We are committed to securing justice for abatement contractors and air monitors, as well as restitution for the harm they leave behind.”

The admissions by CES, in connection with pleading guilty to a one-count misdemeanor Information on May 5, 2015, included the following:

  • During the period of 1999 to 2007, CES was engaged in the business of, among other things, conducting air monitoring and sampling, and performing laboratory analysis before, during, and at the conclusion of asbestos abatement (removal) projects.  CES provided air sampling and laboratory analysis for asbestos abatements by AAPEX Environmental Services, Inc., and Paragon Environmental Services, Inc., which had performed illegal “rip and run” removals in which asbestos was stripped and removed dry, scattered and left behind in various locations throughout the work area, and was permitted to, and did, migrate outside of the facility and into the ambient air. 
  • Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant, and severely toxic.  Medical science has not established any minimum level of exposure to asbestos fibers that is considered to be safe. Before asbestos abatement, containment structures known as isolation barriers must be constructed around the abatement area by the contractor and negative air pressure maintained to ensure that contaminated air in the abatement area does not filter back to an uncontaminated area.  The containment and negative air pressure must be maintained continuously from the start of the abatement work through the cleanup operations and clearance air monitoring.
  • CES’s negligence, which caused the release of asbestos and the resulting imminent danger to people, involved: 1) CES employees failing in certain cases to: perform visual inspections for asbestos debris and pools of water; observe required waiting periods before sampling; record accurate sampling starting and stopping times; calibrate pumps before and after sampling; conduct aggressive air sampling (by agitating the air inside the work area to ensure that present asbestos fibers are rendered airborne for collection and measurement); and decontaminate air samplers and their equipment before leaving the asbestos work area or signing in and out of containment; and 2) CES employees, in certain cases, conducting air sampling without entering work areas; letting contractors collect air samples themselves; and overstating sampling times.
  • CES thereby negligently released asbestos into the ambient air and negligently placed persons in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury from exposure to asbestos fibers.

In 2010, a 15-count superseding indictment charged CES and others with environmental offenses and mail fraud, and a jury trial concluded with the conviction of CES and three co-defendants. In 2014, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the convictions and remanded for a new trial as to the three defendants (including CES) that appealed their convictions. The sentencing of CES for negligent endangerment resolves the pending charges against CES and two co-defendants who also appealed.  Two other co-defendants face re-sentencing.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division, New York Regional Office and Syracuse Resident Office, whose diligence and dedication U.S. Attorney Hartunian commended.  On remand, the case was prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith.

Topic: 
Environment
Updated November 25, 2015