Asbestos removal threatened residents; contractor fined

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GreenGavelBy Eric Freedman

An Indianapolis contactor — whose company carries the ironic name of Work Done Right — has been sentenced to four months of house arrest and fined $2,000 for illegally removing asbestos from an occupied apartment building.

Contractor Paul Walker’s failure to have a licensed abatement company do the work was intended to “save a buck” but endangered the health of residents, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

“Doing so saved him the expense of hiring the professional abatement firm, but it also put the residents of the building at risk for exposure to harmful asbestos fibers,” the statement said.

Medical researchers have linked asbestos, a toxic hazardous air pollutant, to cancer and respiratory diseases.

Walker pleaded guilty to negligent endangerment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Lynch and faced a potential maximum penalty of one year in jail. His sentence includes two years of probation.

According to court documents, Walker agreed to remove insulation that contained asbestos from piping and a boiler as part of a renovation project at the building in Indianapolis. He notified the building’s owner that he’d hired a licensed abatement company as a subcontractor to remove the asbestos with the necessary permits and safety measures and sent the owner a bid estimate from an abatement company.

Instead of using the subcontractor, however, he personally cut and stripped asbestos-containing material from the basement, dumped it into plastic bags and hauled them off-site.

“Walker cut, stripped, bagged and disposed of the material while the material was dry and without following federal work practice standards and state laws for the safe and proper removal and handling of asbestos,” the criminal complaint said.

The crime occurred in July 2015.

The complaint said Walker knew at the time that apartments in the building were occupied.

Testing found no asbestos fibers had reached the occupied floors, and Walker later paid for a professional firm to remove the material, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Nobody else was charged in the case.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted the investigation.

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