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Asbestos Contractor Gets 10-Year Term

Thursday, July 26, 2012

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An Illinois fireproofing contractor has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for illegally removing, handling and disposing of asbestos from a Kankakee building in 2009.



Trash bags containing asbestos were dumped in a park as the contractor “knowingly disregarded federal environmental laws,” a federal prosecutor said. 

Duane “Butch” O’Malley, 59, of Bourbonnais, IL, who was convicted by a federal jury on Sept. 26, 2011, was sentenced Thursday (July 26) by U.S. District Court Judge Michael McCuskey.

O’Malley was also fined $15,000 and ordered to pay $47,086 in restitution to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency related to the clean-up of the illegally dumped asbestos.

Low-Ball Contract

O’Malley, the owner and operator of a company called Origin Fire Protection, was charged in June 2010 with five counts of violating the federal Clean Air Act.

Evidence at O’Malley’s trial showed that he was hired in August 2009 by Michael J. Pinski to remove asbestos-containing insulation from pipes in a five-story building that Pinski owned.

Neither O’Malley nor his company was trained to perform asbestos removal work, and O’Malley agreed to the job “for an amount that was substantially less than a trained asbestos abatement contractor would have charged to perform the work,” prosecutors said.

O’Malley then arranged for James A. Mikrut, 49, of Manteno, IL, to recruit and oversee workers to do the job.

Unlabeled Bags, Open Field

The ensuing work violated a host of federal environmental laws and regulations, evidence showed. The contractors failed to properly notify the EPA about the work; failed to have trained personnel on site; failed to keep the material wet while stripping and removing it; failed to transport it in properly marked vehicles; and, finally, failed to disposal of the material properly.

In fact, the asbestos insulation was stripped from the pipes while dry; placed in more than 100 large, unlabeled plastic garbage bags; and dumped in an open field in a public park.

In the end, the soil was contaminated and the workers were exposed to asbestos-laden dust, the evidence showed.

The charges were investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA’s Superfund Division.

Mikrut and Pinski, 42, of Kankakee, were also charged in the case. Both pleaded guilty in August 2011 to violating the Clean Air Act (Mikrut, to five counts; Pinski, to one). Both men are awaiting sentencing.

Squeezing Profits

U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis said O’Malley “knowingly disregarded federal environmental laws” to squeeze more profit out of the job.

“This sentence is a consequence of the defendant’s flagrant disregard for his workers, the public, and the environment in exposing them to dangerous airborne asbestos fibers.”

Asbestos is a mineral fiber commonly used in a variety of building construction materials. When disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition, microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and other serious health problems.

“Asbestos must be removed in a safe and legal way in order to protect people's health and reduce the risk of exposure,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“The defendant’s actions endangered the health of his workers and the surrounding community—and the sentence shows that those who violate critical environmental safeguards will be prosecuted.”


Tagged categories: Asbestos; Contractors; Environmental Protection; EPA; Health and safety

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/27/2012, 9:05 AM)

Removing and safely disposing of asbestos isn't rocket science. Too bad some people try to shortcut the process.

Comment from Mike McCloud, (7/27/2012, 9:46 AM)


Comment from Bill Connor, Jr., (7/27/2012, 10:59 AM)

Where is the building owner in all this? "Well he was the low bid" does not relieve him from the responsibility to check out the contractors license & permits. The building owner created the problem in the first place by hiring a contractor who was not qualified to do the work he as hired for.

Comment from James Albertoni, (7/30/2012, 10:39 AM)

Bill C, The article says the building contractor pleaded guilty and is awaiting trial.

Comment from Stephen Lewis, (7/30/2012, 8:24 PM)

At trial, the building owner testified that he did not show O'Malley the Phase 1 Report because he did not want O'Malley to know there was asbestos in the insulation. O'Malley's company was installing a fire sprinkler system and was not in the business of removing pipe. But the owner, having been caught, testified that O'Malley came to him and offered to remove the pipes, but the owner said he told O'Malley that the pipes contained asbestos. If this later testimony is true, why didn't the owner show O'Malley the Phase 1 report? He said he didn't want O'Malley to know about the asbestos in the pipes. Based upon this, I don't think O'Malley was proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The owner was given a deal if he testified against O'Malley. Bet the owner doesn't do a day in prison. Justice? 10 years for O'Malley. Proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? To quote John Wayne, "Not hardly."

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