A man from Montgomery County is facing nearly 25 years of imprisonment and a fine of nearly $1.25M for illegally removing dangerous asbestos from a property in Philadelphia (PA).
Federal authorities indicted David Mermelstein, a Willow Grove (PA) resident who is 53 years old, on 5 counts of illegal asbestos removal, the United States Attorney’s office for the E. Dist. of Pennsylvania declared.
Prosecutors say that in year 2009, Mermelstein hired some day laborers instead of using licensed asbestos abatement contractors for removing asbestos material from one of the commercial properties owned by the defendant in NE Philadelphia.
The indictment says that Mermelstein asked his day laborers to remove asbestos-containing products from the building without providing them any safeguards as mandated by the law. The property – a very old furniture warehouse – was purchased by Mermelstein in 2001 April, the indictment says.
The asbestos at issue was present in piping which ran all through the structure. Asbestos was used once used widely in piping because it is an excellent insulator.
According to the indictment, Mermelstein violated the Clean Air Act or CAA that the Congress had enacted for enhancing the quality of resources of the nation and for promoting public welfare and health.
The case was investigated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which generates standards under the CAA, and the Philadelphia City’s Air Management Services, records indicate.
The indictment states that the defendant hired ordinary laborers for removing insulated pipes containing asbestos from the structure after realizing that hiring a licensed contractor for asbestos removal would be far more expensive.
The defendant directed his workers for removing insulated pipes containing asbestos which were there in his property. He used techniques such as cutting, ripping and breaking dry asbestos, causing the material to drop down onto the floor. He also used techniques such as sweeping debris and dust containing asbestos and disposing of the material in a dumpster, according to the indictment. Under the law, asbestos waste should be disposed of in an authorized landfill.
The federal government also maintains that the defendant intentionally concealed the information from the workers that they were actually removing asbestos-containing materials from the worksite and thus put them into risk of developing dangerous asbestos-related diseases. The indictment also states that Mermelstein continued to use the workers for removing asbestos piping even after he was ordered by the Philadelphia City to halt his illegal work.