Upstate Contractor Guilty Of Environmental Crime

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill today announced that a Schuyler County contractor has pled guilty to illegally dumping asbestos in woodlands in Central New York.

Between January and March of this year, Patrick O'Bannion of Alpine dumped more than 4,500 pounds of asbestos in locations around Tompkins, Chemung and Schuyler counties. O'Bannion, 73, carried out the illegal dumping while working as a subcontractor hired to remove asbestos from the boiler room of the former Ithacare facility at 115 South Quarry Street in Ithaca.

"Asbestos has long been known as a dangerous substance that can harm the public health if improperly handled," said Spitzer. "The state will diligently prosecute those who place personal gain above the public good by illegally disposing of asbestos and other hazardous materials."

Spitzer commended Commissioner Cahill and the DEC for their prompt action in the case.

DEC Commissioner Cahill said: "Illegally handling and disposing of asbestos can be harmful to the public health and the environment and DEC is committed to pursuing those persons who would damage our natural resources by holding them accountable for their actions. I commend DEC's law enforcement team for their work on this investigation and the Attorney General's office for their cooperation in prosecuting this important case."

O'Bannion pled guilty today before Chemung County Court Judge Peter Buckley to one count of endangering the public health, safety, or the environment in the second degree, a Class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. Sentencing is scheduled for December 11.

O'Bannion pled guilty to the highest possible criminal charge because he not only improperly disposed of asbestos, he also failed to obtain the state-mandated training, certification or license to engage in asbestos removal work.

Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer in humans after repeated exposure. Its removal and disposal are stringently controlled by state and federal regulations.

The Department of Environmental Conservation investigated O'Bannion after receiving information about improper asbestos dumping and determined that he illegally disposed of asbestos in the following locations:

  • Carter Creek Road/Connecticut Hill in the Town of Newfield, Tompkins County;
  • Chaffee Creek Road in the Town of Newfield, Tompkins County;
  • Blake Hill Road in the Town of Van Etten, Chemung County; and,
  • Burlingame Road in the Town of Cayuta, Schuyler County.

After completing its investigation, DEC referred O'Bannion's case to the Attorney General's office for prosecution.

The Environmental Protection Agency removed all of the dumped asbestos immediately upon discovery. The Emergency Response and Prevention Branch of the EPA promptly responded to the sites and their immediate action helped contain the contamination. The hazardous material was collected and properly disposed. None of the illegal dumping sites represent a health risk.

Restitution for the clean-up costs will be sought when O'Bannion is sentenced.

The case was handled by Lt. Woody Erickson and Investigator James Masuicca of the DEC and by Assistant Attorney General Russell Ippolito, Jr.