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Asbestos Supervisor Sentenced for Illegal Asbestos Removal at Ambler, Pa. School

Release Date: 01/14/2008
Contact Information: David Sternberg 215-814-5548 /sternberg.david@epa.gov

PHILADELPHIA (January 14, 2008) -- Branko Lazic, 42, of Haledon, N.J., was sentenced January 11 in federal court in Philadelphia for the illegal removal of asbestos pipe insulation at a Pennsylvania elementary school. U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez sentenced Mr. Lazic to three years probation, including six months home confinement, $6,097 in restitution, $100 special assessment, and 50 hours community service in the Ambler, Pa. area.

Lazic was the supervisor on an asbestos removal job performed in June 2002 at the Mattison Elementary School in Ambler. Lazic and his company were responsible for the removal of more than 600 asbestos-insulated pipe elbows located in the ceilings throughout the school. The job required that the asbestos insulation be removed in accordance with the Clean Air Act.

An information filed in the case on June 6, 2007, alleged that on the weekend of June 29, 2002, asbestos was improperly removed. Lazic failed to ensure that asbestos was properly removed when he permitted another person to supervise the asbestos removal on the first floor of the elementary school, knowing that there was a high probability that the asbestos removal under this person’s supervision would be done without adequately wetting the asbestos.

An investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office – Environmental Crimes Section and EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division discovered that instead of using the required removal equipment and techniques, asbestos-insulated elbows were removed without proper containment and with no water to suppress airborne asbestos particles. Lazic pleaded guilty to criminal violations of the Clean Air Act on June 14, 2007.

“Improper removal of asbestos in schools is dangerous and will not be tolerated. EPA will continue to do everything in its power to see that these cases are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Donald S. Welsh, EPA regional administrator for the mid-Atlantic region.

The Clean Air Act requires work practice safeguards in asbestos removal and renovation projects to prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious health risks. Using water and equipment, such as glove bags, and other containment measures, prevents the release of asbestos fibers and minimizes the chance of exposure.

Dry asbestos chunks and fibers were found several months after the removal. As a precaution the school district voluntarily shut down the school until follow-up inspections and air monitoring confirmed that the building could be safely reoccupied.

The case was prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, with assistance provided by EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional office.

The case is part of an environmental crimes initiative currently being undertaken by the Philadelphia Environmental Enforcement Task Force, a coalition of federal, state and local governmental agencies dedicated to addressing violations of environmental laws and regulations throughout the greater Philadelphia area.

The task force asks the public to report activities that they believe are suspicious or may constitute criminal activity. The task force can be contacted through its website, http://www.epa.gov/region03/philacrimes/index.htm, or TIP Hotline - 215-814-2666.

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