An Iowa contractor and building inspector was sentenced to 2 years probation and ordered to pay $11,573 in fines and prosecution costs for asbestos removal violations on his own home renovation project.
Steven Weaver, a resident of Algona, Iowa, purchased a home in Kossuth County with plans to renovate and transform the property into a modern apartment building. However, Weaver skipped on a proper inspection before performing the work and hired workers who weren’t properly licensed in asbestos removal.
Contractor Caught on Multiple Violations
Weaver’s oversights were caught by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when they inspected the property in November 2014. The EPA identified asbestos in the basement pipes, which had already been removed by workers without asbestos certification.
Based on his industry experience, Weaver should have known the pipes were potentially contaminated and had them adequately tested before removal. Had he done so, he would have known they contained asbestos, requiring him to follow proper asbestos removal protocols. Instead, Weaver chose not to test the pipes and proceeded as if they weren’t contaminated.
The EPA also found Weaver hadn’t reported his project to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which regulates asbestos-related renovation projects. Contractors must submit projects to the DNR at least 10 days before starting work. If exposure occurs, contractors must immediately stop work and report it. The EPA told Weaver to report the asbestos, and he didn’t.
The contractor was found to have committed the following asbestos removal violations:
- Failure to properly inspect for asbestos
- Failure to hire certified asbestos abatement workers
- Failure to report the renovation project to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources
As both a contractor and building inspector, Weaver was well aware of the hazards of asbestos, as well as asbestos removal guidelines. He had more than a decade’s experience in the industry and would have known what to look for and how to address it. Instead, he chose to cut corners that put his workers and the surrounding citizens at needless risk.
Guilty Plea and Sentencing
Steven Weaver’s case was seen before the federal court because he violated EPA and OSHA guidelines, and both agencies are under federal administration. His actions broke federal laws dictated by the Clean Air Act, as he failed to control asbestos emissions during the removal of his property’s asbestos-containing pipes.
Weaver knew his actions were wrong and, on October 11, 2018, he entered a guilty plea for violating clean air work practice standards. The plea was arranged within a plea agreement that likely offered a lighter sentence in exchange for his admission of guilt.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Straus determined the sentencing and called Weaver’s behavior “aggravating,” as he skimped on asbestos procedures and consequently put others at risk.
For his asbestos removal violations, Judge Straus ultimately sentenced Weaver with:
- Two years of probation
- $10,000 in fines
- $1,573.35 in legal prosecution costs
While Weaver is paying the price in fines and probation, the consequences of his actions are unclear and may never be known. The health impacts of asbestos exposure can take decades to manifest and, due to this lengthy latency period, can be impossible to trace back to specific exposure incidents.
Cracking Down on Asbestos Removal Violations
Cases involving improper asbestos removal are on seemingly the rise throughout the United States, and the courts continue to be unforgiving of unnecessary asbestos violations. Contractors continue to take shortcuts because proper asbestos removal can be expensive, inconvenient and time-consuming.
Asbestos laws exist for a reason. Asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, have devastating consequences for the victims. It’s utterly unacceptable for contractors to sacrifice other people’s health for their profits. Contractors must be held accountable when they jeopardize the health and wellbeing of their workers and the community. There is just too much to lose.