Illinois contractor gets 10-year sentence for asbestos violation

An Illinois man whose workers removed and then dumped asbestos-containing insulation with no training or safety protection has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Duane “Butch” O’Malley, 59, was also ordered to pay restitution of $47,086 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) related to the cleanup of illegally disposed asbestos, as well as a $15,000 fine, according to an EPA announcement.

During O’Malley’s trial, the government presented evidence that his firm, Origin Fire Protection, was hired by Michael Pinski in August 2009 to remove asbestos-containing insulation from pipes in a five-story building in Kankakee, Ill. Neither O’Malley nor his company was trained to perform the asbestos-removal work, and O’Malley agreed to remove the asbestos insulation for an amount that was substantially less than a trained asbestos abatement contractor would have charged for the job.

O’Malley arranged for another individual, James Mikrut, to recruit and oversee workers to remove the asbestos.

O’Malley was charged in June 2010 with five felony violations of the Clean Air Act. He also violated EPA regulations when his workers stripped the asbestos insulation from the pipes while it was dry and then placed it in more than 100 large, unlabeled plastic garbage bags. The bags were dumped in an open field in Hopkins Park, resulting in soil contamination. The workers hired by O’Malley were exposed to asbestos-laden dust and fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs and cause serious health problems, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. 

O’Malley was convicted by a federal jury on Sept. 26, 2011, for the illegal removal, handling and disposal of asbestos. Federal District Court Judge Michael McCuskey handed down the 10-year sentence.

“To increase his profits, a jury found that O’Malley knowingly disregarded federal environmental laws that require asbestos-containing materials be safely removed and properly disposed,” said U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, Central District of Illinois. “This sentence is a consequence of the defendant’s flagrant disregard for his workers, the public and the environment in exposing them to dangerous airborne asbestos fibers.” 

Michael Pinski, 42, entered a plea of guilty on Aug. 19, 2011, to one count of violation of the Clean Air Act. James Mikrut, 49, pleaded guilty on Aug. 24, 2011, to five counts of violation of the CAA. The sentencing hearings for Pinski and Mikrut will be scheduled at a future date.   

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