Obstinate Behavior Results in Fine for Asbestos Violator

So… you want to go on doing what you’re doing, despite the hazards to yourself and your neighbors? Fine. In this case, of $6,358. William Kostela of Athena, Oregon, had been warned, of course, but according to Tom Hack of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), “he apparently did not get the message.” Hack became aware of Kostela’s activities when the local office of the DEQ received a complaint from one of his neighbors. The neighbor in question said that Kostela had been tearing off siding from the front of the house, and expressed concerns that the siding contained asbestos. When Hack went out to Kostela’s property for an inspection, he found that damaged siding had been strewn about the work site carelessly. Upon cursory examination, Hack found reason to suspect that the material contained asbestos, and advised Kostela of the fact. Kostela replied that the substance only appeared to be asbestos, but in fact was not. Nonetheless, Hack took a sample of the crumbling material to a laboratory for analysis. When the analysis showed that 10 percent of the material consisted of chrysotile asbestos, he left a message on Kostela’s answering machine advising him to cease and desist. He did not.

The Oregon DEQ mailed a letter to Kostela, informing his that he had been observed removing asbestos materials in a manner inconsistent with state and federal law, requiring that such work be performed only by certified asbestos contractors and that asbestos waste be properly sealed, labeled, and taken only to approved disposal sites. Kostela was given 20 days in which he had the right to respond to any allegations. Again, the notice was disregarded. The matter has now been transferred to a collection agency. Considering that commercial violators who handle asbestos waste carelessly in public buildings are subject to six-figure fines and possible prison time, Kostela appears to have gotten off rather easily. There is also the libertarian argument pointing out that Kostela was working on his own private property, and therefore, his activities were of no concern to the government. Not necessarily, according to Hack. Working indoors would have been one thing. However, Kostela was working outside, and asbestos fibers were being released into the area. Hack pointed out, “It’s a sensitive area where kids walk by, so you know that’s taken into consideration.” Kostela has yet to respond.

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