New York - A New York man pleaded guilty Friday to negligently releasing asbestos and thereby exposing victims to an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury.
Roger Osterhoudt, 58, of Saugerties, New York, entered a guilty plea to a Clean Air Act violation before the Hon. Judge McAvoy sitting in Binghamton. Sentencing is currently scheduled for Sept. 28. Osterhoudt faces up to a year in prison, five years’ probation, a $50,000 criminal fine, and will likely be held liable for providing restitution to any victims.
"Operators of asbestos demolition and renovation projects are responsible for how this dangerous material is handled," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Negligently placing people in grave danger from air pollution is a crime that this Division will investigate and, when appropriate, prosecute. This is one of those cases."
According to court documents, between 2015 and 2016, Osterhoudt, negligently permitted abatement workers to remove asbestos from a former IBM site in Kingston, now known as TechCity. As Osterhoudt, knew, the facility in question contained over 400,000 square feet of regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM), as well as an additional 6,000 linear feet of RACM pipe wrap. Osterhoudt, as the Vice President of Property Management for TechCity, hired an asbestos abatement contractor and a project monitoring company to remove all the asbestos from the facility prior to its renovation and/or demolition.
Between 2015 and 2016, Osterhoudt was made aware that these abatement and project monitoring companies were violating asbestos regulations related to the safe containment, handling, and disposal of asbestos wastes. These regulations are intended to protect workers and prevent releases into surrounding communities and the environment. New York State issued notices of violation (“NOVs”) as a result of many of these infractions. Nonetheless, Osterhoudt not only permitted the work to continue, but further pressured asbestos abatement supervisors and workers to expedite the removal of asbestos at the site to meet contract deadlines. At times, A2ES’s owner, Stephanie Laskin, and other A2ES supervisors, including Gunay Yakup (both of whom have previously entered guilty pleas), instructed workers to remove RACM dry—leading to visible emissions of asbestos—and directed work to proceed in areas that were not properly sealed off with “critical barriers” intended to prevent the escape of asbestos contamination into the surrounding community and environment.
Osterhoudt admitted that he was aware of the numerous NOVs, and that he should have known that by permitting the asbestos abatement and project monitoring companies to continue their illegal practices, he negligently permitted the release of asbestos contamination into the environment and placed others at an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury. Asbestos has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease. The EPA has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Special agents of the EPA and individuals from the New York Departments of Labor and Environmental Conservation investigated the case. Todd W. Gleason and Gary N. Donner of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case with the assistance of paralegal Chloe Harris.