Ridgedale, Tennessee - The prosecutors in a case against three defendants who turned the site of the former Standard Coosa Thatcher textile plant in Tennessee into a serious health threat nearly a decade ago are seeking “stiff sentences” for the trio, reports an article in The Chatanoogan.
The attorneys in the case sent the judge a 47-page document asking that he "send a clear message that our nation's laws that were intended to protect human health and worker safety cannot be knowingly sacrificed for personal avarice."
The case against Don Fillers, David Wood and James Mathis centers around the fact that the three men failed to properly remove asbestos from the site after they bought the old factory and demolished it so that they could then sell the cleared acreage for profit. However, Fillers chose a low bid from James Mathis’ firm for asbestos removal at the site and the abatement was not carried out in a proper manner.
Post-demolition inspectors note that an abundance of asbestos materials remained behind and that Wood, who was appointed site inspector because of his former work at the textile factory, was seen with a female companion picking up asbestos by hand and putting it in garbage bags. In addition, it was reported that Mathis hired unskilled laborers, including day laborers, drug addicts, and “street people” to perform the work, though none of them was trained in asbestos removal nor were they given protective clothing to prevent them from inhaling the asbestos material, which can cause asbestosis and mesothelioma.
John Schultz, an inspector with the Chattanooga Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau, reported that he accidentally happened upon the site in Sept. 2005 and was immediately alarmed at the state of the property. He told the court that it "looked like a bomb had gone off with debris (containing asbestos) strewn across the site."
After Schultz’s visit, the article reports that inspectors from several local and federal agencies came to the site and immediately initiated clean-up procedures. Now, say attorneys, it’s highly likely that some of the individuals exposed to the material will get sick with the next few decades, a result of the inhalation of tiny, sharp asbestos fibers, which can become lodged in the lung area and cause scarring or even cancer.
The three defendants face up to five years on asbestos charges and Fillers up to 20 years for obstruction of justice. Sentencing is expected shortly.