Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in the United States until the mid-1970s, when it was determined that people who are exposed to it are at risk for mesothelioma, asbestos, and other serious and life-threatening illnesses. The material was largely used in construction, in industrial settings, and in environments including high heat and flame because of its characteristic strength and insulating ability. Though its use has been diminished since that time, it remains in place in many locations, and its removal requires highly specific techniques in order to protect those doing the removal as well as those who may be in the immediate vicinity. These techniques are mandated by law, and when they are not followed those responsible can be held legally and financially liable for the damages that they cause. Such was the case in Cleveland, when businessman Christopher Gattarello was fined $7.8 million for his failure to adhere to the law. He also faces five years in prison.
Gattarello was the owner of the structure that was once a National Acme plant. Though he leased the property for years as a storage facility for rubbish, he purchased the building in May 2012 with the intention of demolishing it and selling it for scrap. Demolition requires approvals, including inspection of the presence of asbestos and a plan for its mitigation and removal if it is in place: Gattarello did not seek any of those approvals and when he began demolition, asbestos fibers were released into the air, including into the environment of a residential neighborhood where families immediately grew concerned about the potential for a mesothelioma diagnosis in the future for themselves and their children.
Gattarello will not only be required to pay $5.9 million to the city for cleanup of the site; he will also be required to pay $800,000 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for cleanup work that they have already done and an additional $1.1 million to a financial company to whom they submitted false invoices. According to U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja, “Mr. Gattarello created a garbage dump in a residential neighborhood near a school, which remains an environmental hazard. He has caused irreparable harm and deserves this punishment.”
With mesothelioma claiming over 3,500 lives per year in the United States, it is remarkable that so many companies continue to ignore the hazards that exposure to asbestos causes. If you or someone you love have been exposed to asbestos and you have questions about what it means for you, contact us at 1-800-966-2244. We can direct you to all the support and resources you need to get the answers and justice you deserve.