Owner of Chardon company sentenced to nearly two years in prison for violating Clean Air Act while demolishing Canton buildings
The owner of a Chardon demolition company was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for violating the Clean Air Act when he did not take steps to abate asbestos when he tore down a building in Canton, law enforcement officials said.
Russell P. Stewart, 48, was sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay $876,228 in restitution. The sentence will be served concurrently to a state prison sentence for a related case in which he improperly disposed of hazardous waste.
He previously pleaded guilty to one count of improper asbestos demolition and one count of failure to timely dispose of asbestos waste.
Stewart is the owner and operator of Chemstruction. He entered into a contract on Nov. 1, 2011, to demolish the former Stark Ceramics facility on West Church Street in Canton. The site covered approximately 500 acres and consisted of numerous commercial buildings, according to court documents.
The contract provided that all asbestos-containing materials would be removed and abated in accordance with environmental regulation and industry standards. An earlier environmental survey showed asbestos was present throughout the site, according to court documents.
Stewart participated in and directed the demolition of the structures from November 2011 through January 2013.
An inspection in October 2012 revealed crushed panels contained asbestos. Inspectors told Stewart to stop demolition until a cleanup plan could be developed but Stewart continued with demolition, causing asbestos panels to be crumbled, pulverized and reduced to powder, according to court documents.
“We will aggressively prosecute those who pollute our environment, whether it’s releasing asbestos into the air or dumping waste into our lakes and stream,” Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja said.
“This is about protecting Ohioans and the air they breathe,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “It’s a collaborative effort. We are continuously working with other agencies to protect public health and safety.”
“The defendant’s actions in this case released asbestos fibers into the environment and resulted in a $800,000 cleanup funded by the U.S. EPA,” said Scot Adair, Acting Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio. “It’s imperative that asbestos be removed safely, and EPA and its law enforcement partners will hold to account those who refuse to obey the law.”
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson following an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.