Earlier this summer, Dan Hulsing of Hulsing Hotels Missouri, Inc., pleaded guilty in a federal court to violating the Clean Air Act. The violation occurred during the removal of asbestos in the course of renovations being performed at the Clarion Hotel in Kansas City. Hulsing was the project superintendent. According to court documents, he admitted that he had no training in asbestos handling, nor had any qualified asbestos abatement contractors participating in the renovation project. The charges were the result of an anonymous tip received by the Kansas City Health Department through its Air Quality Program. When Health Department personnel arrived to inspect the Clarion Hotel project, they found untrained workers removing asbestos insulation. The federal Clean Air Act requires property owners to have asbestos removed prior to commencement of any construction or renovation work. By the time the city Health Department got word of the project, renovations had been underway for two months. Hotel employees and guests had occupied the building the entire time.
A representative of the Environmental Protection Agency was quoted as saying, “…hotel guests pay for comfort and deserve to breathe clean and safe air…[Hulsing’s] guilty plea should be a reminder to other hotel chains that renovations must be done carefully and legally.” According to the plea agreement, Hulsing Hotels Missouri, Inc., will pay fines totaling $300,000 for the violation; $200,000 will be paid to the federal government in two installments, while an additional $100,000 in civil penalties will go to the State of Missouri. It is a true lesson in false economy. According to a defense attorney, it would have cost Hulsing a little over 10% of that amount–approximately $35,000–to have had the asbestos cleanup done properly in the first place. In an unrelated story, the K.C. Health Department received yet another anonymous tip about asbestos-containing materials found in a public garbage container in the Congress Building on Broadway. A complaint was issued to the building’s owner, Del R. Hedgepath. Those who receive such complaints have ten business days in which to respond. In addition to fines, both Hulsing and Hedgepath have now left themselves vulnerable to liability in any future lawsuits, should any workers or hotel guests contract asbestos-related disease in the coming years.