AIREKO Construction Company Indicted For Violations Of The Clean Air Act
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, announced today that a the grand jury in San Juan returned a six count indictment against AIREKO Construction Co. The charges are the result of the illegal removal of asbestos during the renovation of the 9th floor of the Minillas North Tower in May 2012.
The grand jury charged AIREKO with five counts of failing to comply with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) by failing: (1) to adequately wet the asbestos during the removal; (2) to have a properly trained supervisor on site during the removal; (3) to properly place the asbestos in leak tight bags; (4) failing to properly label the asbestos containing waste material; (5) to properly dispose of the asbestos containing material at an authorized land fill. Count Six charges the defendant with failing to notify immediately the appropriate government agency of the release of a reportable quantity of a hazard substance-asbestos.
The indictment alleges that between Saturday 12 and Sunday May 13, 2012, subcontractors, working within the scope of their employment and at least in part for the benefit AIREKO, removed ceiling materials containing > 1% asbestos and placed the asbestos containing materials in the trash area in back of the Minillas North Tower. The failure to notify charge focuses on conduct of corporate officials who discovered the release of asbestos on Monday May 14, and failed to make the appropriate notifications.
The illegal removal of the asbestos containing ceiling material and transporting it down to the trash area without following the NESHA work practice requirements resulted in the contamination of the entire office building. The building was ordered closed by the Public Building Authority on May 20, 2015. Clean-up required almost one year to complete.
In a related matter, the U.S. Attorney also filed a one count Information charging Edgardo Albino with failing to notify immediately the appropriate government agency of the release of a reportable quantity of a hazard substance-asbestos. Mr. Albino 60, of Caguas, Puerto Rico, is the Vice-President of Operations and Executive Owner of AIREKO. He was the senior AIREKO employee responsible for supervising the ninth floor renovation.
The case was investigated by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Region II Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Howard P. Stewart, Senior Litigation Counsel, Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice Washington, D.C., and Assistant United States Attorney Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte with assistance from Carolina Jordan-García, EPA Region II Criminal Enforcement Counsel.