The U.S. Department of Justice announced last week that AIREKO Construction Company entered into a plea agreement following its failure to comply with the asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants during the illegal removal asbestos materials from the Minillas North Tower in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2012.
The DOJ press release reports AIREKO has also been ordered to pay $172,020 to cover a baseline medical examinations, as well as follow up medical examinations for approximately 450 people exposed to asbestos fibers in the aftermath of the illegal activity.
Additionally, AiREKO vice president Edgardo Albino who previously pleaded guilty to failing to notify immediately the NRC of the asbestos release, was sentenced to pay a fine and serve a six months probation.
“Asbestos exposure can cause cancer, lung disease and other serious respiratory diseases," said special agent-in-charge Tyler Amon for the Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division in New York. “In this case, AIREKO Construction avoided hiring trained and certified asbestos abatement professionals. AlREKO did the work 'on the cheap', willfully putting workers and others at risk. We will not allow businesses to cut corners on environmental protection at the expense of people's health."
The incident happened over the weekend of May11,2012 when a AIREKO subcontractor crew removed 550 square feet of asbestos-containing stucco ceiling material from the ceiling of the 9th floor of Minillas North Tower, then moved to a trash area behind the building without following any of the Asbestos Work Practice Standards required by federal regulation.
The discarded asbestos was discovered by AlREKO employees the following Monday but failed to immediately report the incident to the National Response Center (NRC) as required by law.
The EPA later investigated the asbestos cleanup and found the material had spread throughout the building, prompting the agency to close the building.