Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has announced a lawsuit alleging two building owners and two corporations violated state laws when they renovated an apartment building in a residential neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side and allowed the unsafe removal of asbestos, a known human carcinogen with no safe level of exposure.
On Sept. 28, an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) inspection of the rear courtyard of the building reportedly revealed a pile of renovation debris containing more than one cubic meter or 35 cubic feet of linoleum floor tile and plaster mixed with dry, easily crumbled asbestos-containing material.
The same type of material was found on the third floor of the house and two large garbage bags filled with asbestos-containing pipe insulation were found on the back porch. A six-foot-long and four-foot-wide boiler that had been stripped of asbestos-containing material also was found on the property. The asbestos materials allegedly had not been watered down, a process that protects people from the dangers of asbestos by making the asbestos fibers less likely to float into the surrounding air.
According to Madigan’s complaint, samples taken by the IEPA during the Sept. 28 inspection revealed that materials on the site contained as much as 40 percent asbestos – a remarkably high and dangerous amount.
Madigan’s suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, names as defendants Ekeh Lewis and Phyllis Nash, of Chicago, Le-Na Construction Inc., an Illinois corporation, and Trotterbuilt Construction Inc., an Illinois corporation. Lewis and Nash allegedly are overseeing renovations of the three-story apartment building at 5300 S. Prairie Ave.
The defendants are charged in the five-count complaint with violations stemming from the improper removal of asbestos, including causing air pollution, failing to follow proper notification requirements, failing to follow proper emission control procedures, improper disposal of regulated asbestos-containing materials and creating a substantial danger to the environment and public health and welfare.
Additionally, Lewis and Nash allegedly failed to follow laws requiring them to have a representative at the site trained to oversee safe asbestos removal and notify the IEPA before demolition of asbestos-containing materials began.
Madigan’s suit seeks to stop all renovations involving asbestos contamination until the IEPA has approved plans for future construction activities that comply with all Illinois environmental requirements.
In addition, the suit seeks civil penalties of $50,000 for each violation and additional penalties of $10,000 per day of violation.
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