Otsego, Michigan - Authorities say Michael Davis Jr., who used to own the Rock-Tenn Paper Mill in the town of Otsego, Michigan, violated federal Clean Air Act laws when he removed asbestos-laden pipes from the old mill without the proper permission and in an improper manner.
According to an article posted on Michigan Live, Davis bought the old mill in 2006 and proceeded to remove scrap material from the site, including items that contained asbestos. The article quotes an indictment against Davis which states that he was well aware that there was “substantial quantities of asbestos-containing insulation at the Otsego paper mill, particularly on pipes in the powerhouse,” yet he proceeded to remove it without regard for any asbestos-related environmental laws.
Specifically, Davis failed to order an asbestos inspection before work began, did not have a representative trained in asbestos removal on site, failed to wet the material before it was removed, did not label the asbestos-containing waste, and did not dispose of the material in a proper manner. All of those issues could have resulted in exposure to dangerous asbestos dust for the workers hired by Davis and for anyone who may have been in the vicinity when the asbestos-containing materials were removed.
“Rather than pay for a trained and professional expert in asbestos removal, (Davis) devised a scheme to save time and money by hiring inexperienced laborers to assist him in removing the asbestos-containing insulation from pipes and other components in the powerhouse without following the work practice standards for handling asbestos as required by federal law,” authorities stated in the indictment.
Furthermore, when the demolition company hired by Davis to demolish the mill expressed their concern about the presence of asbestos and the possibility of asbestos exposure, Davis denied that there was asbestos on the premises, allegedly telling the company that the material had already been removed.
The work in question continued from May 2007 until March 2008, the article notes. Finally, an inspection team from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) visited the site and indeed determined that asbestos insulation had been removed and disturbed. At that point, Davis once again denied knowing that asbestos was present at the paper mill, though an environmental consulting company he hired after the DEQ visit confirmed the presence of dangerous asbestos dust, which can cause mesothelioma if inhaled.