Department protects air quality, leads investigation of contractor found guilty of forging environmental reports

For more information: 573-751-1010
Volume 37-052 For Immediate Release: Feb. 27, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, -- In its efforts to protect air quality the Missouri Department of Natural Resources recently built a case against a construction company owner who unlawfully performed asbestos inspections. Janet M. Otten, owner of Enterprise Construction Co. Inc., was operating without the proper certification as well as forging the name of a Missouri-certified inspector to bypass statutory requirements for asbestos work.

Missouri law requires training and certification for individuals conducting inspections for asbestos prior to demolition or renovation. The purpose of the regulation is to ensure asbestos containing materials are properly handled to eliminate the public from being exposed to asbestos fibers.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber. Asbestos fibers become airborne when they are disrupted by wear and tear, renovation and demolition.  Once airborne, they can be easily inhaled leading to asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Studies have also indicated cancers of the mouth, throat, digestive tract and other organs may be caused by asbestos. There is currently no known safe level of asbestos exposure.  Because it is fire resistant, strong and generally resistant to heat, electricity and chemical attacks, asbestos has and continues to be used in thousands of different materials, including building products, fabrics and brake pads.

Otten pled guilty in St. Louis County Circuit Court to four counts of forging environmental reports. Ms. Otten, 45, of Webster Groves, admitted to falsifying signatures on asbestos inspection reports that were submitted to the St. Louis County Department of Health. Department of Natural Resources staff compiled the documentation submitted by Otten and presented the evidence to the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney for action.

Asbestos inspections must be done by inspectors certified by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.  Ms. Otten forged the signature of a certified inspector on at least four reports.  Asbestos inspections must be done before demolition of buildings subject to state and federal asbestos regulations takes place. Ms. Otten was placed on five years probation and ordered to have no further involvement in any asbestos-related businesses.

The department regulates asbestos inspections, project notifications, demolition notifications and emission-control procedures for asbestos removal and disposal. Notification must also be sent on all projects where greater than 160 square feet, 260 linear feet, or 35 cubic feet of regulated asbestos containing materials will be removed and for all regulated demolition projects regardless of whether asbestos is present or not.

Enforcement of the asbestos regulations is also delegated to certain local agencies in the state. These local agencies include the health departments in Kansas City, St. Louis City, St. Louis County and Springfield-Greene County. If a project is to occur in one of these jurisdictions, you should check with that local agency for additional requirements.

For more information on asbestos or other air pollution issues, visit the department's website at www.dnr.mo.gov/env/apcp or call the department's Air Pollution Control Program at 573-751-4817 or 800-361-4827.

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