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Local Real Estate Developer Sentenced to Prison for Asbestos-Related Clean Air Act Violations

Release Date: 9/8/2005
Contact Information: Donna Heron (215) 814-5113

Conact: Donna Heron: (215) 814-5113
PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that a Philadelphia man was sentenced on Sept. 7, 2005 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for violating Clean Air Act criminal provisions by directing illegal asbestos removal work at a Clifton Heights facility known as the Old Yarn Mill Self-Storage facility.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence F. Stengel sentenced John Kay, 47, principal of Kay Properties, Inc., to 10 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay a fine of $15,000 as well as a $700 special assessment. Kay pleaded guilty to seven counts of violating the Clean Air Act on June 9, 2005.

Kay was the owner and operator of a renovation project at the self-storage facility.
Beginning in 1999, laborers working for Kay cut down thousands of feet of asbestos-covered heating pipes using handheld gasoline-powered saws rented by Kay. In removing the pipes, the workers did not wet the asbestos as required by law, instead letting the dry material fall to the ground, which created a significant amount of dust containing dangerous airborne asbestos fibers. The workers then dumped the asbestos-containing debris into dumpsters and debris piles outside of the building, creating an exposure hazard to others. All of this renovation activity was conducted with Kay=s knowledge, as well as his knowledge that the heating pipe insulation contained asbestos.

Importantly, none of the workers were ever told by Kay that they were working with asbestos- containing materials. Moreover, none of the workers were certified or trained in the safe removal of asbestos-containing materials, and while some of the workers wore basic paper dust masks, none wore any personal protective equipment sufficient to protect them from exposure to airborne asbestos fibers.

“This individual created a serious health risk, not only for the workers but for anyone who came in contact with the airborne fibers when the debris was discarded outside the building,” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

In imposing the sentence, Judge Stengel did not depart from the applicable sentencing guideline range of 10 to16 months, although he did sentence at the lower end of the range, mostly based on the fact that the defendant had no prior civil or criminal enforcement history.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that was widely used in building insulation products until the mid-1970s. Exposure to asbestos causes deadly diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen), and asbestosis. Federal law requires that persons, who engage in asbestos-related work in schools or other public or commercial buildings, undergo extensive training on how to properly and safely handle the material without endangering themselves or public health and the environment.

This case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia by Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Tsao and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Keating of EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.