A New York woman has plead guilty to federal charges of mishandling asbestos.
Stephanie Laskin of Newburgh, N.Y., plead guilty to charges of illegally removing and disposing of asbestos on April 8, according to a Justice Department release. Her plea came two weeks after a co-conspirator — Gunay Yakup, also of Newburgh — pleaded to the same charges in federal court.
Laskin owns an asbestos handling service — A2 Environmental Services — which was contracted to remove asbestos from a former IBM site in Kingston, N.Y., and then safely dispose of it. This includes more than 400,000 square feet of asbestos-contaminated material, as well as an additional 6,000 linear feet of asbestos-contaminated pipe wrap.
Conspiring to Cut Corners
According to the release, Laskin and Yakup — who was a supervisor for her company — conspired with others to pressure workers into ignoring federal safety standards for asbestos handling in order to meet the job’s contractual deadlines.
Between 2015 and 2016, Laskin, Yakup and others convinced workers to “expedite the removal of asbestos at the site” by cutting numerous corners, endangering employees and violating the Clean Air Act’s requirements for asbestos handling.
This includes ordering workers to strip the asbestos dry, rather than wetting it first, as federal law requires to keep it from becoming airborne, the release noted. When workers questioned these orders, Laskin threatened their jobs.
Laskin’s firm received numerous notices of violation for the illegal asbestos removal, for storing bulk asbestos waste at the location in open containers, for failing to contain work areas to limit asbestos discharges and other infractions, the release stated. Based on all these violations, New York state’s Labor Department stopped all work on the site in August 2016, which put a halt to Laskin’s illegal removal and disposal operation.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said that “Laskin went into this project with her eyes open, planning to do it on the cheap. But, that meant doing this project in knowing violation of the law and her supervisor training, placing others at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers. This criminal prosecution holds her accountable.”
Laskin, whose sentencing is scheduled for July 27, faces a maximum of five years in prison.
The worksite was designated a Superfund site in 2019. Cleanup costs are estimated to be in the millions, according to the Justice Department release. An EPA release from that time mentions Laskin and her company in a listing of those potentially responsible for the contamination at the site.