EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) – A southwestern Illinois man who admitted violating the federal Clean Air Act by having asbestos illegally removed from a former industrial site has been sentenced to eight months of confinement.
Franklin “Al” Bieri, 54, of Lebanon, Ill., was sentenced Friday in federal court in East St. Louis to five months in prison, followed by three months of home confinement. Bieri, who pleaded guilty in October 2011, also was fined $3,000.
Authorities say Bieri bought a seven-acre former Emerson Electric site in Washington Park and looked to demolish the asbestos-containing buildings on the site.
But federal prosecutors say workers Bieri hired in April 2010 didn’t take proper safeguards in removing the asbestos or limiting its airborne emissions, and the waste wasn’t properly labeled.
Bieri also admitted he failed to provide written notification to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency at least 10 working days prior to beginning the asbestos work an offense punishable under the Clean Air Act.
Asbestos is a natural mineral which can be processed for use in rooftops, piping, or building materials. Inhaling its fibers scars the lungs and can lead to respiratory diseases, including cancer.
During Friday’s sentencing, a judge called the matter “a profoundly serious crime” and said Bieri put “people’s lives on the line.”
“This well-heeled businessman tried to save a few bucks by sending in untrained and improperly protected people, then had them dispose of this dangerous material improperly, exposing unsuspecting landfill workers,” Stephen Wigginton, southern Illinois’ U.S. attorney, said in a statement. “This conduct is breathtaking, literally.”
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