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Idaho Construction Company Causes $3.9 Million Asbestos Clean Up

An Idaho construction company has been fined $100,000 and has been placed on probation for a period of three years after a federal court determined that they were guilty of a variety of asbestos cleanup and containment violations.

The company, Owyhee Construction Inc. was hired as part of a $3 million upgrade project directed at replacing the city of Orofino’s water lines. The job included the replacement of 5,000 feet of concrete pipe that contained asbestos. Though the pipes were safe as long as they were intact, once they were destroyed they immediately posed a threat of asbestos fibers becoming airborne and ingested or inhaled. For that reason Owyhee was expected to contain and encase the pipes and dispose of them in a safe and controlled manner. Instead it appears that they simply removed the crushed pipe and then distributed them to a number of private locations in the general vicinity as fill. Doing so put untold numbers of people at risk and required that all sixteen locations where the waste was dumped to undergo specialized clean up procedures that cost $3.9 million dollars.

According to Tyler Amon, special agent in charge of the criminal investigation division for the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle, the impact of the dispersal of contaminated material could be far reaching. “Deceived into thinking Owyhee Construction had provided them with ‘clean fill,’ citizens and businesses of Orofino used the material to fill their driveways and yards. The result: a contaminated mixture of crushed pipe and debris laced with harmful asbestos spread over 16 separate sites.”

As a result of the investigation, Owyhee Construction is being compelled to pay a fine of $100,000 as well as to put a compliance and ethics program into place internally.  This is not the first ruling that Owyhee Construction has had to face in regards to this case. In 2013 two of their employees were convicted of violating the federal Clean Air Act’s work standards. They two had served as onsite supervisor and project superintendent, and had been accused of failing to provide proper supervision. Because employees were not instructed in the proper methods of handling asbestos and were not provided with protective clothing. As a result each served one year sentences, with six months spent in prison and the balance spent under home confinement.

According to U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson, “businesses have a firm, and in this case contractual, obligation to handle harmful materials with care and in compliance with environmental regulations that protect the public from unknowing harm. This case should send the strong message that those who fail to meet these obligations will be investigated, caught and punished.”

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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