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Developer jailed for willful violation of asbestos regulations

Earlier this week, a developer was sentenced to just under three years in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to ignore and violate federal asbestos laws during a long-term renovation project at a major downtown building. The developer is accused of conspiring with some employees to remove and hide asbestos materials, while not informing other employees about the potential danger he was putting them in.

According to the indictment, the violations took place while the developer was managing the three-year renovation of the Equitable Building in downtown Des Moines, Iowa from 2005 to 2008. He is accused of cutting corners during the removal of insulation and other materials containing asbestos in order to speed up the project.

In court, a building engineer testified that the developer and his construction supervisor made efforts to never say "asbestos" when other employees or members of the public were around in order that "the tenants wouldn't hear about it and word wouldn't get around the building." In addition, the engineer said, the developer asked him to work on the weekends, specifically, removing pipe coverings and hiding them in a dumpster so no one would realize that they contained asbestos.

According to the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, the developer had previously been warned about asbestos regulations during an earlier renovation.

The developer was arrested and charged with two violations of the federal Clean Air Act, to which he pleaded guilty in February. Last week, he was sentenced to 41 months in jail, as well as a $12,000 fine and 300 hours of community service, which must have an environmental focus.

Source: Des Moines Register, "Knapp sentenced to 41 months in prison," Jeff Eckhoff, 22 June 2011

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