Philadelphia, PA – A man from Willow Grove (PA) was charged for allegedly hiring general laborers instead of authorized contractors for removing hazardous asbestos material from a Philadelphia property owned by him.
David Mermelstein was charged by the federal authorities with 5 counts of illegal asbestos removal in a Tuesday indictment, according to Zane David Memeger – the United States Attorney who represents the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
According to the indictment, from 2009 September until 2010 April, Mermelstein hired day laborers, instead of hiring contractors who are licensed to handle asbestos abatement jobs, for removing hazardous asbestos from his 10175 Northeast Avenue property. Additionally, the indictment alleges that the defendant carried out the dangerous job without any safeguards that are required under the federal and state regulations for protecting people including workers from being exposed to asbestos fibers. No measures had been taken to prevent asbestos fibers from being airborne, according to the indictment.
If asbestos fibers are inhaled, they will stay on lungs without any damage for long and will cause the individual to develop deadly diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer after several decades. Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma (a cancer of the mesothelium) are incurable. For this reason, asbestos is highly regulated by the United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Whoever violates the safety regulations could be sentenced for imprisonment, in addition to massive fines.
The unsafe and illegal disposal of a dangerous material such as asbestos threatens the safety and health of the general public seriously, says David McLeod Jr., the special agent with criminal enforcement program of the EPA for the Middle Atlantic States. McLeod said the agency believes the defendant intentionally directed the illicit removal of dangerous demolition debris which contained asbestos. Asbestos can be extremely dangerous if it is disturbed or broken.
The indictment demonstrates that whoever tries to make profits by violating the regulations and spoiling the environment will definitely be held accountable and vigorously prosecuted, McLeod said.
The defendant could be sentenced for imprisonment of up to 25 years if convicted, in addition to a penalty of up to $1.25 million.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) investigated the case together with the Air Management Services of Philadelphia. Assistant United States Attorney Virgil Walker is prosecuting the case, along with special assistant United States attorney Ms. Patricia Miller.