Health and safety precautions are paramount when it comes to asbestos removal.

A New York contractor was sentenced to six years in prison last week for knowingly violating the Clean Air Act and making false statements to a federal inspector.

The asbestos abatement contractor and his now defunct company were also ordered to pay fines of about $45,000 in total.

The allegations included letting untrained workers remove asbestos-containing materials and pipes without the necessary safeguards and there by threatening the health of those workers and the public.

No level of exposure to asbestos is safe, according to the EPA.

“Ensuring Clean Air Act work practice standards for asbestos are followed when renovating or razing a building is critical to protecting workers and the public,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a press release.

“This sentence shows that when employers fail to adhere to the requirements of the law to make a profit, the consequences are serious.”

The contractor hired a number of workers who had no training in asbestos removal and did not know they were being exposed to the asbestos while removing the copper pipes.

When questioned by the workers, he lied and told them the areas did not contain asbestos.

He also lied to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector who came to the site in September and October 2007 to investigate allegations of illegal asbestos removal.

The project wasn’t done correctly. Asbestos was free to flow from upper floors through drains and holes in containment and large amounts of the carcinogenic material was left hidden in the building and had to be cleaned out later.

According to the Clean Air Act, all asbestos must be removed from any structure where it may be disturbed, and during abatement it must be wetted and kept adequately wet at all times and disposed of as soon as practical at an EPA-approved site.

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