LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United Sta…

LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ricky Langlois, Special Agent in Charge, Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, Miami Field Office, and Broward County Sheriff Ken vJenne, announced that defendant, Kenneth Hale, 45, of Fort Lauderdale, was convicted and sentenced yesterday, Monday, May 7, 2007 in connection with criminal violations of the Clean Air Act asbestos regulations resulting from the 2006 planned renovation of the Highland House West apartment complex in Wilton Manors, Florida, into condominiums.

Hale pled guilty and was sentenced before United States District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas, in Fort Lauderdale, for failing to provide notification required by the Clean Air Act Work Practice Standards, regarding his intention to engage in renovation and other activities, prior to removal of regulated asbestos containing material. Hale, at the time was co-manager and a 50% ownership participant in Rockland Properties, LLC, which purchased the Highland House West for re-development.

The federal Clean Air Act regulates the emission of hazardous air pollutants, including asbestos. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants include work practice standards that are binding on all persons engaged in demolition and renovation work who own, lease, operate, control, or supervise demolition or renovation operations at facilities with a requisite amount of asbestos present The detailed work practices are designed to limit risks to human health and the environment associated with asbestos by detailing acceptable removal and disposal procedures, as well as mandating special training for workers conducting the removal, and the use of protective gear and air quality monitoring systems during the process.

According to court records, Rockland Properties, LLC acquired the Highland House West project in July 2005 with the intention of redeveloping the 14-unit building into condominiums. A similar project, in an adjacent 24-unit building, had been initiated by Rockland in February 2002. Asbestos was discovered in “popcorn” ceiling material in the 24-unit building in approximately March 2005, and Hale actually paid for the removal of the asbestos containing material. A Phase I Environmental Assessment was conducted on the Highland House West units in July 2005, but was inadequate to satisfy the Clean Air Act requirement for a thorough asbestos survey. In fact,12 units were later found by the Broward County Environmental Protection Department Asbestos Coordinator to have regulated asbestos containing material in the popcorn surface of their ceilings. Hale hired painters to scrape the material from the ceilings as part of the renovation project, with some of the material being improperly placed in open dumpsters on-site.

Judge Dimitrouleas sentenced Hale to a one year term of probation and ordered him to pay a $50,000 criminal fine. In addition, Hale must complete a training program in the proper identification and handling of solid and/or hazardous substances and wastes, including asbestos, within 90 days of his sentencing.

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U. S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/.

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