Improper renovations put workers, neighbors at risk
SPOKANE – Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed criminal charges on Monday in Spokane Superior Court against three people and one company for multiple violations of clean air laws involving improper asbestos removal and disposal. Ferguson alleges the defendants’ actions endangered the health of their neighbors and workers.
Kent-based 2013 Investors, LLC, its owner, Dayabir Bath, his nephew, Gee Grewal, and employee John Hickson are accused of multiple violations of the Washington Clean Air Act and reckless endangerment. Grewal is also accused of making false statements to a public servant.
In 2013 and 2014, the state alleges, 2013 Investors performed extensive renovation work on an 89-room hotel at 4301 W. Sunset Blvd. in Spokane. Although the building, the former Spokane House Hotel, contained asbestos, the owners didn’t obtain the proper asbestos surveys or city permits to do the work as required by law, according to the allegations.
“My office won’t tolerate skirting our environmental laws and endangering public safety to make a quick buck,” Ferguson said. “Asbestos-removal regulations are strict for a reason: The alleged actions of these individuals put at risk not only workers, inspectors and innocent neighbors, but also endangered our environment.”
One City of Spokane permit application filed by the defendants asserted they planned only to replace, texture and paint drywall, though more extensive renovation was already underway.
Investigators from the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency only became aware of the full extent of the renovation when one of them happened to drive by and noticed the extensive work in June of 2013. Investigators reported piles of debris likely to contain asbestos sitting out in the open air, endangering workers and neighbors.
Again in 2014, Clean Air Agency investigators spotted another debris pile, containing visible asbestos. The asbestos allegedly sat in the open air for several months, experiencing winds of up to 43 mph in that timeframe. During such winds, delicate and breakable asbestos fibers can freely blow around the neighborhood, endangering the health of those nearby.
2013 Investors, Bath, Grewal and Hickson are each charged with:
- Three counts of violating the Washington Clean Air Act, and
- One count of reckless endangerment
Additionally, Grewal is charged with:
- One count of making false statements to a public servant
Each count carries a maximum of 364 days in jail and/or $5,000 in fines.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Ferguson praised the efforts of the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others, for their work on the case. “Their efforts directly led to these charges,” Ferguson said.
The lead prosecutor is Assistant Attorney General Bill Sherman.
Ferguson has made prosecuting environmental crimes a priority of his administration. Since 2013, he has brought environmental prosecutions leading to 14 criminal convictions, and restitution orders totaling in excess of $700,000.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov