Improper disposal of asbestos during a major renovation project led to more than three years in prison for an Iowa building owner.
Bobby Joe Knapp, the former owner of Des Moines’ Equitable Building, was sentenced recently to 41 months in prison for conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act and failing to remove all regulated material containing asbestos during a 2005-2008 renovation project spanning 10 floors of the landmark building.
Knapp owned the high-rise and oversaw its renovation, which involved converting some floors into luxury condos and making other floors more attractive to commercial tenants.
Material that contained asbestos was disposed of in an uncovered dumpster, and demolition workers were not provided with protective equipment to reduce their asbestos exposure, according to testimony at his sentencing. Asbestos greatly increases the risk of lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases.
Tenants and workers were exposed to demolition dust, and the exposure was increased because the workers were not instructed to wet tiles that contained asbestos before or during demolition, according to a worker who testified against Knapp.
Knapp pled guilty to both charges in March. In a plea agreement, he admitted that he conspired with Russell Coco, who pled guilty to the same charges in February, to remove materials that contained asbestos without complying with Clean Air Act requirements.