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Idaho Motel Owner Charged with Asbestos Violations

Release Date: 7/30/2003
Contact Information: John Millett
(202) 564-7842

July 30, 2003

On July 14, a Federal Grand Jury in U.S. District Court in Boise returned an indictment charging California real estate developer and hotel owner/operator Aubrey Lewis Ritz, also known as Lew Ritz, of Sacramento, Calif., with eight felony counts of violating the asbestos work practice standards of the Clean Air Act. The indictment alleges that Ritz knowingly failed to conduct a thorough asbestos inspection of a facility prior to conducting a renovation project; failed to file written notice with the EPA of the intent to renovate a facility; failed to adequately wet regulated asbestos-containing material (ACM); failed to have trained personnel on-site during the removal of regulated ACM; failed to properly package and label regulated ACM; failed to follow transportation and disposal requirements pertaining to regulated ACM; failed to deposit regulated ACM waste at an approved disposal site; and knowingly released asbestos to the ambient air during a renovation project.

The violations allegedly occurred after Ritz became the new owner and operator of the Stardust Motel in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He allegedly hired a crew of uncertified workers to perform the illegal removal of asbestos-containing acoustical ceiling and transite siding material during the renovation of the facility in the fall of 2001 through the spring of 2002. Improperly removing asbestos can lead to the inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers which are a known cause of lung cancer, a lung disease known as "asbestosis" and mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities.

The indictment resulted from an investigation conduced by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division. An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.