A New Jersey State Grand Jury has indicted a demolition company and its owner and project manager on more than a dozen charges stemming from illegal removal of asbestos at the now-defunct Zurbrugg Memorial Hospital in the South Jersey town of Riverside.
According to an article in the Burlington County Times, the men – Frank J. Rizzo and Michael Kourvaras – operators of a company known as South Street Fill-It Recycling, committed a host of violations against the federal Clean Air Act and the Asbestos Control and Licensing Act when they failed to properly remove asbestos from the old hospital and hired workers who were not trained and licensed to perform the asbestos abatement.
The charges against the men include second-degree charges of conspiracy, unlawfully causing the release of a toxic pollutant, and abandonment of toxic pollutants, as well as a third-degree charge of violation of the Asbestos Control and Licensing Act. New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa noted that the second-degree charges carry a potential sentence of five to ten years in state prison as well as a fine of up to $150,000. In addition, the third-degree charge also carries a prison term of three to five years and fines of up to $25,000.
The charges stem from an event that spanned from August 2010 to March 2011 when Rizzo’s company chose to use unlicensed, untrained day laborers to illegally remove asbestos from the abandoned buildings on the hospital campus. The company also did not apply for or receive a license for handling asbestos, and the shoddy workmanship resulted in the release of asbestos dust and fibers, which can cause mesothelioma cancer when inhaled.
Residents that lived in homes bordering the hospital site reported their concern to the township about the dust they say permeated the air and covered their yards during and after the demolition process. One resident even recalled watching a demolition bury “something” at the site. She suspects it was asbestos material.
Attorney General Chiesa says the company knew of the presence of asbestos before demolition started but chose to take the easy way out in regards to its removal. “We allege that they put their monetary self-interest ahead of the health and safety of their workers and the surrounding community,” he said in a statement. “They are charged with serious crimes.”