A contractor has been sentenced to 30 days in jail or on a Caltrans crew for remodeling work that resulted in the "total contamination" of a Northridge house with asbestos, Los Angeles City Atty. Jim Hahn said Thursday.
Terry Allen Strayhorn, 42, a Cathedral City resident who owns Palm Springs-based Terry Allen Designs, was sentenced Wednesday after pleading no contest in Los Angeles Municipal Court to negligently causing the emission of asbestos fibers while removing a ceiling.
Also pleading no contest--the equivalent of a guilty plea--to the same misdemeanor offense was Richard William Verhoef, 45, of San Bernardino, a subcontractor who prosecutors say dry-scraped the house's cottage-cheese ceiling, sending asbestos fibers throughout the dwelling.
After the remodeling was completed 17 months ago, the house's owner, Marcia Grad, lived for nearly a year in her 3,100-square-foot contemporary home in an affluent neighborhood near Cal State Northridge, said Deputy City Atty. Donald Kass.
But after reading a newspaper article in December about houses contaminated during remodeling, she called the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which sent an inspector, Kass said.
The contamination "even extended to her refrigerator and kitchen range," said Hahn, adding that "all the new furniture she had purchased through Strayhorn as part of the redesign and remodeling project will have to be removed and destroyed due to the contamination."
According to Hahn, Strayhorn assured Grad that there was no chance of asbestos in her house, which property records indicate was built in 1976.
Grad, who was inside her home Thursday, declined to discuss the case or say whether she had completed decontamination and was living in the house.
Asbestos was widely used in insulation, floor tiles and roofing through the 1970s, when the federal government established a link between the fibrous mineral and severe respiratory diseases--including lung cancer--and began limiting its use.
Asbestos-laced materials are safe when intact, but when broken or pulverized, they can release fibers that are hazardous when inhaled, health officials say.
Health effects typically do not show up for a decade or longer, experts say.
Larry Hopkins, AQMD supervising investigator, said that in the past 12 months, his staff has referred 17 cases to prosecutors in the district's four-county region.
Hopkins said federal rules for handling asbestos require that the material be contained in plastic sheeting and be wet down, and that workers wear respirators and protective clothing.
In addition to giving Strayhorn a choice between 30 days in jail or on a Caltrans work crew, Court Commissioner Barry Kohn ordered the contractor to perform 200 hours of community service and placed him on three years of probation.
Verhoef was sentenced by Kohn to 500 hours of community service and also placed on three years' unsupervised probation.