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Kansas City developer admits he ignored asbestos threat

A Kansas City developer has pleaded guilty to improperly removing and disposing of asbestos-containing materials while overseeing construction of a 35-acre retail project.


William M. Threatt, Jr., president and owner of The Citadel Plaza Redevelopment Site, could be sentenced to five years in prison, plus a fine of up to $250,000. A co-defendant, Anthony Crompton, real estate director for Community Development Corporation of Kansas City, pleaded guilty in October.


The two men were indicted in June, 2010 on two counts each for violations of the Clean Air Act, which sets standards for the safe handling, removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials during renovation or demolition. But according to the indictment, the men all but ignored those rules, putting workers and the public at risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers.


Asbestos is a known carcinogen that causes mesothelioma, a rare, incurable cancer of the lungs and abdomen, asbestosis and other respiratory diseases. The Environmental Protection Agency, which has regulated the mineral since the 1970s, says there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.


According to the indictment, Threatt and Crompton failed to properly inspect the construction site for asbestos or to notify the EPA or the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that the project involved the removal of asbestos-containing material. They also failed to take approved measures to reduce the release of asbestos dust during the work or to dispose of the material in properly labeled containers.


According the Kansas City Star, the Citadel Plaza project was plagued by problems from the start.


Threatt had announced plans to build an $80 million shopping center, including a full-service grocery, retailers, restaurants and homes, in a blighted midtown neighborhood. But the developers allowed the area to become became contaminated, leaving building materials in huge piles at the site and in nearby woods.


A legal battle between the city and the developers was finally settled last month when a judge awarded $15 million to the developers, who said the city had failed to follow through on a promise to provide at least $20.5 million for the project. In return, the city received most of the land and the redevelopment rights.


None of the money went to Threatt, who retired in 2009, according to the Star.