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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 8, 2015

Certified Environmental Services, Inc. Pleads Guilty To Negligent Endangerment

UTICA, NEW YORK – Certified Environmental Services, Inc. ("CES") pled guilty on May 5th to a one count misdemeanor Information charging CES with 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. Sentencing is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on September 10, 2015, before U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd in Utica. CES faces maximum penalties that include probation for 5 years, restitution, and a $200,000 fine, as well as a special assessment of $125.

The admissions by CES in connection with pleading guilty included the following:

During the period of 1999 – 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 which 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.

The negligence by CES that was a cause of the release of the hazardous air pollutant asbestos and the resulting imminent danger to persons 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 sign 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 fifteen 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) as charged. However, in 2014, the Court of Appeals reversed the convictions and remanded for a new trial. The guilty plea May 5th resolves the pending charges against CES and two co-defendants. Two other co-defendants face re-sentencing.

The 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. It is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith.

Updated May 8, 2015