Environmental Leader’s daily roundup of key environmental enforcement news:
Business Owner Pleads Guilty for Asbestos Violations, False Tax Returns
Daniel Black, 56, the president of Blackstone Business Enterprises Inc., entered guilty pleas for failing to conduct an inspection before an asbestos-removal project was undertaken and filing a false tax return, United States Attorney William Hochul, Jr. told the Jamestown Post-Journal.
The charges stem from an incident that occurred in July of 2008 when Black hired four temporary workers from an employment agency to complete a renovation project at the facility in Jamestown located at 100 Blackstone Ave.
The case was brought to the attention of the New York State Department of Labor Asbestos Control Bureau in August 2008, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Mango.
“This case began in August of 2008 when the New York State Department of Labor Asbestos Control Bureau and OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were informed that an asbestos disturbance had happened at the Blackstone facility, specifically there is a four story building at Blackstone Business Enterprises Inc. which is connected to the main manufacturing facility,” Mango told the Post-Journal.
The two agencies then began an investigation into the situation and on two different dates in August collected samples from the building.
“The samples they took came back positive for asbestos so what happened at this point, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division stepped in,” he said.
What they found was that the four temporary workers were removing insulation from steam pipes in the building and cutting down the steam pipes as scrap metal. The four men were exposed to asbestos during this time, he said.
The EPA continued its investigation and found information regarding tax returns filed by Black from 2005 to 2007.
“During the investigation it was learned that there was some information relevant to tax filings made by Dan Black in which he used money that he had received from Blackstone Business Enterprises Inc., in his role as president of Blackstone,” he said. “Essentially he had more money coming to him then he was claiming on his tax return. In a nutshell what it is Dan Black was using corporate funds for his own benefit and were not being noted on his personal tax return.”
Many items were purchased with the unreported money, according to Mango.
“A fuller description will come out during the sentencing phase, but some of the items included home improvement items for his residence, a concrete patio, a motorcycle was bought, and that will be brought more fully to the courts attention in the sentencing phase of this case,” he told the Post-Journal.
Black faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a term of supervised release of three years for the Clean Air Act violation, the asbestos charge, and up to three years in prison, a $100,000 fine and a term of supervised release of one year for filing a false tax return. Black also agreed that Blackstone will pay a $205,000 penalty to OSHA to resolve citations and an additional $25,000 to the state Department of Labor for violations.
“What the plea agreement alleges is that the defendant acted knowingly in not having an inspection done of the facility,” he said. “That is something that will be an issue on sentencing, that we will bring to the courts attention. There were prior asbestos projects that were conducted at Blackstone that would have given the defendant knowledge that there was asbestos in the four story building, so essentially he should have known that there was asbestos there.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that these types of cases were a priority.
“These things don’t just affect the workers at the sites, but they also effect those in the community who neighbor the sites, and in a case like asbestos it is a particular substance we are concerned about, given that it has been linked to so many health problems,” Hochul told the Post-Journal. “The importance is really two fold. No. 1: there is the specific deterrent, where an individual is found to have broken the law, he will now face, like Mr. Black will, punishment that will come with a criminal conviction. There may be among other forms of punishment, maybe a jail sentence or a fine, which would yet to be determined, and a possible debarment of future work in that particular area for some period of time. The other importance of prosecutions like this is what I will call the general deterrence value, where other corporations that are either considering working in the asbestos removal area or are already involved, will hopefully reexamine their procedures and practices to make sure that they are conforming to what the EPA says are the proper precautions to that particular line of work.”
Printer to Reduce Emissions, Participate in Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 has settled allegations of Clean Air Act violations brought against Lakeside Lithography, whose facility is located at1600 S. Laflin St., Chicago, Il, the agency announced yesterday.
The settlement, which includes a $4,123 civil penalty, requires Lakeside to install new equipment to reduce air pollution from the facility and keep its garage door closed when its coating line is operating to prevent emissions from affecting the surrounding area.
In addition, the company has agreed to carry out two supplemental environmental projects designed to protect the environment and public health. Lakeside Lithography must spend $15,000 on a lead poisoning prevention and care abatement project in and around its facility in the Pilsen neighborhood. It will contract with and pay a local nonprofit organization experienced in lead abatement to conduct the work. It must also spend $40,000 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the neighborhood by adding controls to its natural gas burners. This change would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the community by an estimated 670,360 pounds per year, EPA said in a press release.