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Saturday, June 25, 2022

AG Files Criminal Charges Against Hotel Owner Over Improper Asbestos Removal

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson

SPOKANE – On Monday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed criminal charges on 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.

According to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), 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 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, that they believe endangered workers and neighbors.

In 2014, Clean Air Agency investigators claim that they 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. The AGO alleges that 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, if substantiated in a court of law, carries a maximum of 364 days in jail and/or $5,000 in fines.

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.

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