On August 16, 2018, Joseph Michael Kehrer, 63, was sentenced to five months of imprisonment for failing to notify regulatory authorities before removing asbestos material, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Steven D. Weinhoeft, announced today. Kehrer had previously pled guilty to the charge, which is a felony violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Upon release from imprisonment, Kehrer will be placed on supervised release for a term of one year, with the first five months on home confinement subject to electronic monitoring. The district court also ordered Kehrer to pay a criminal fine of $50,000.
Kehrer admitted that in February and March of 2015, he was the owner of a building formerly as the Okawville Elementary School in Okawville, Illinois (Washington County). During that time and during a renovation activity, Kehrer caused the removal of a combined amount of material containing asbestos greater than 160 square feet. Under such circumstances, Kehrer was required by law to notify regulatory authorities – in this instance, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) – at least ten working days prior to removing the asbestos material. Kehrer admitted he knowingly failed to provide the prior notification to IEPA.
At sentencing, the district court considered as aggravating factors Kehrer’s role in the offense as a manager or supervisor of the activity, as well as efforts he made to obstruct and impede the administration of justice during the investigation. Specifically, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration went to inspect the former school, Kehrer told inspectors that the only asbestos present was contained on the pipe insulation. In fact, Kehrer had received an asbestos inspection report in 2014 documenting additional asbestos within the school. Kehrer also denied knowing about the grinding and sanding of the former school floors when, in fact, he was the one who directed the workers to sand and grind.
“This case demonstrates that those who place communities at risk by failing to abide by the law will be held accountable for their actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Martinez of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Illinois.
The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William E. Coonan, with the assistance of David P. Mucha, Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.