Five former managers and employees of a salvage company are headed to prison and will have to pay $10.3 million in restitution after conspiring to commit environmental crimes and exposing workers to dangerous levels of asbestos.
The Environmental Protection Agency reported that the multi-year scheme involved A&E Salvage, which purchased the defunct Liberty Fibers Plant in Tennessee to remove salvageable metals from the plant after it ceased operations.
All five pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act’s “work practice standards,” after removing substantial amounts of asbestos without proper storage or disposal, and without providing workers necessary protective gear.
Asbestos is highly toxic and is a known cause of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer, a fatal disease. According to the EPA, there is no safe exposure level for asbestos.
“Illegal disposal of asbestos endangers human health, plain and simple,” said Special Agent in Charge Maureen O’Mara of EPA’s Criminal Enforcement Program in Tennessee. “The defendants conspired to violate the Clean Air Act by hiring untrained workers to remove materials, without proper safety equipment, that contained asbestos. This put not only the workers’ health and safety at great risk, but that of the entire community.”
The five will face prison sentences ranging from six to 28 months.