The attorney general for Washington state has filed five felony charges in Chelan County, Washington Superior Court against an asbestos abatement company.

A news release from the Washington state government states that A1 Asbestos LLC and its owner, Timothy Powell, have been accused of providing phony asbestos waste shipment records to a county landfill. The charges state that the company allegedly forged signatures on some of the documents.

The firm and its owner also are accused of giving false statements to the state Department of Labor and Industries regarding the dates on which its asbestos abatement work would begin with some clients. This was done to avoid safety inspections by the state.

About Asbestos and Natural Disasters

Most people know that buildings that were built before 1980 could contain asbestos. As long as the asbestos is left undisturbed, it usually presents no health hazards. However, if asbestos containing materials are exposed to the open air and disturbed, this is a very dangerous situation.

That is why a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado or flood can be so dangerous in terms of asbestos exposure to a family or community. When mother nature causes heavy damage to a home or building, asbestos from decades ago can be disturbed. Very dangerous asbestos fibers may be sent into the air after the natural disaster. They can be breathed in by both animals and people.

In the aftermath of some natural disasters, people who aid in the clean up process may be exposed to asbestos themselves. They could be at high risk of developing mesothelioma cancer or asbestosis later in life.

But first responders in the police and fire departments are not the only ones at risk. Anyone who lives in the area where asbestos fibers were sent into the air could come down with a fatal cancer, too.

Therefore, it is incredibly important to have in place proper asbestos handling procedures in operation after any type of natural disaster. If you are a homeowner whose home was built before 1980, you should be very careful in the cleanup process after a natural disaster. It is wise to have the building or home evaluated by an asbestos abatement professional or consult. These trained experts can verify whether or not the structure contains asbestos.

Prior to a landfill accepting construction waste in Washington, the contractor must show proof from an asbestos abatement contractor that the waste has no asbestos in it. An abatement contractor is responsible for taking out asbestos and disposing of it legally and safely at landfills. The asbestos waste shipment record is provided to contractors to show that the construction waste has been scoured of all asbestos fibers.

Powell has been accused of faking Okanogan County WA waste shipment records on several different jobs. The purpose was to show that he legally disposed of asbestos at local landfills.

Some contractors try to cut corners when disposing of asbestos because it is more expensive to do safely than regular construction waste. The fake documents may have allowed Powell’s company to avoid many of the costs of asbestos disposal. The asbestos-containing materials were most likely combined with asbestos materials from other sites so he only had to pay a single disposal fee.

Powell and his company have been charged with four counts of offering a false instrument for filing or record, and one count of forgery. These are both class C felonies with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison. The company also can be fined $5000.

The Washington state attorney general has prioritized prosecuting environmental crimes in the last three years. Since 2013, the AG’s office has brought environmental-related charges that have led to 19 criminal convictions.

About Asbestos Abatement

If you are a contractor or a citizen who thinks he may be dealing with an asbestos issue at a jobsite or in a home, it is strongly advised to bring in an expert to test for asbestos.

Asbestos is highly dangerous and toxic, and was used for decades in many building and construction materials, such as flooring, roof shingles, cement, joint compound and insulation. If the building or home in question was built before 1980, it is important to bring in an asbestos consultant to check if there is asbestos present.

While most asbestos that is undisturbed is generally not hazardous, when renovation or demolition is underway, very dangerous asbestos fibers are released into the air. These fibers are too tiny to see with the naked eye. They can get stuck in the lung lining and eventually lead to mesothelioma.

An asbestos consultant has been trained and certified to perform official tests for asbestos. They also have the skills and training to recommend how asbestos can be safely removed from the home or building. Further, the consultant can both monitor and certify that the asbestos abatement professional on site has removed all of the dangerous substance safely.

The asbestos abatement expert will take a look at a jobsite or home and determine if a Health and Safety Executive license is needed to complete the job. This license is needed when there is a high risk of asbestos fibers being released into the air during work.

Remember, any work that is done on an older building should be reviewed by an asbestos contractor. This will ensure that the structure is safe to be worked on without worry of asbestos exposure.