Franklin A. "Al" Bieri, 52, of O'Fallon, pled guilty today in federal court in East St. Louis to violating the Clean Air Act.

Charges against Bieri stem from his activities at the Emerson Electric facility, a seven acre site in Washington Park, that Bieri purchased
in order to demolish and salvage the buildings on the site, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Bieri admitted he knew that the buildings on the site contained asbestos, but, in April, 2010, he used untrained workers who failed to use proper removal and disposal procedures, such as wetting asbestos to limit airborne emissions and proper labeling of asbestos waste to alert others to the danger and ensure the waste went to an appropriate section of the landfill.

Bieri also admitted that he failed to provide written notification to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency at least 10 working days prior to beginning asbestos stripping and removal work, an offense punishable under the Clean Air Act.

"The safety of workers and the public is something I take very seriously," said U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton in a statement. "I encourage anyone with information about illegal asbestos removal to contact the EPA or my office so that these dangerous violators are stopped and prosecuted."

Bieri faces a penalty of up to five years' imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, or both, and a term of supervised release of up to three years.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2012.

The guilty plea follows an investigation by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The prosecution of the case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin F. Burke.

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