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New York contractors face asbestos charges in Michigan

Three New York men have been indicted for using untrained workers to remove asbestos from a Michigan apartment building slated for demolition.

Peter DeFilippo, David Olsen and Joseph Terranova face charges that they conspired to violate the Clean Air Act and made false statements to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The Clean Air Act requires that building owners and contractors follow federal work standards to ensure the safe removal of asbestos, including notifying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before starting work. The law also sets standards for the handling of asbestos and requires that the material be disposed of at an EPA-approved site.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen that was widely used to make building and construction materials until the 1970s. While considered safe if left undisturbed, airborne fibers from crumbled, or friable, asbestos causes mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining the lungs and abdomen, and other respiratory illnesses. The EPA considers any amount of exposure to asbestos fibers to be a heath hazard.

According to the four-count indictment, DeFillippo, owner of Excel Demo Inc. in New York, was hired to supervise the demolition of a fire-damaged building at Harbour Club Apartments in Belleville, Michigan. Prosecutors say DeFilippo ordered Olsen to remove the asbestos in June 2008 and that Olsen attempted to reduce the cost of the abatement by using unlicensed workers.

The indictment charges the defendants with failure to submit a 10-day notification to state environmental officials before beginning the work; failure to adequately wet asbestos-containing materials, as required by law; and failure to follow regulations for the safe disposal of the materials with proper labeling and warnings.

Terranova was the supervisor of capital projects for GFI Management Services, Inc., the property management firm for Harbour Club. Prosecutors say Terranova knew about the presence of asbestos-containing materials in the building and that DeFilippo and Olsen planned to remove the materials in violation of the regulations.

A May 2008 survey of the building found more than 30,000 square feet of asbestos-containing materials in the building.

Randall Ashe, a Special Agent in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal enforcement program, said improper asbestos removal puts workers an the public at risk.

"Exposure to asbestos can be fatal, and unsafe asbestos removal practices put the health of both the workers and the public at risk," said Ashe. "These arrests show that the government will take action against those who are alleged to have broken the law."