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Former St. Louis-Area City Councilman Gets Prison for Illegally Removing Asbestos

Release Date: 08/16/2007
Contact Information: Dave Ryan, (202) 564-4355 /

(8/16/07) On Monday, a former East St. Louis, Ill. city councilman, Charles Powell Jr., was sentenced to a 15-month prison term and two years of supervised release for illegally removing asbestos during building renovation, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act.

Powell, owner of Powell's Demolition Co., was sentenced in the federal district court for the Southern District of Illinois.

In June, Powell pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and one count of failure to notify authorities prior to removing asbestos material.

In 2002 Powell contracted with real estate developer Phil Cohn to renovate the 12-story Spivey Building in East St. Louis into an office and shopping center. Powell directed workers to remove the asbestos without protective gear and without wetting the asbestos prior to removal, which is required by EPA in order to safely remove the cancer-causing materials. In addition, Powell did not identify the waste properly for the contract waste haulers and did not notify the Illinois Environment Protection Agency prior to the removal work.

In 2005, Cohn was indicted, convicted and sentenced for his involvement in the renovation project to 60 months imprisonment and five years supervised release, which included charges unrelated to removal of asbestos at the Spivey Building.

Asbestos, which is commonly used in thermal insulation and other building materials, is a carcinogen and exposure can result in serious or fatal respiratory diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. When asbestos-containing materials become damaged or disturbed, the fibers separate and may become airborne and inhaled into the lungs. EPA requires keeping building materials wet that may contain asbestos in order to prevent the fibers from becoming airborne.

The case was investigated by the EPA and FBI and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of Illinois.

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