WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that Michael L. Smith and Lawrence J. Williams, partners in Smith Renovations in Janesville, Wis., have each been convicted of violating the Clean Air Act due to illegal asbestos removal. The jury found Smith guilty of five counts and Williams guilty on one count.

According to the EPA, in April 2002, Smith Renovations contracted with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mt. Horeb, Wis., to remove asbestos-containing ceiling and flooring material. The defendants hired a licensed asbestos removal firm to remove the flooring, but in July they removed the asbestos-containing ceiling material themselves without following federally-mandated workplace practices, says EPA.

Improperly removing asbestos can expose workers and others who enter the area where the asbestos was removed to the inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers. Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers can lead to a lung disease known as asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities.

Each count of violating the Clean Air Act carries a maximum prison sentence of up to five years and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division in coordination with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Occupational Health Laboratory.

Publication date: 05/24/2004