Prosecutors are asking stiff prison sentences and fines against defendants involved in demolition of the old Standard Coosa Thatcher plant in Ridgedale that resulted in "creating a Superfund site."
Prosecutors Todd Gleason of Washington, D.C., and Matthew Morris of Knoxville are asking Federal Judge Curtis Collier to give a six-level enhancement to the prison terms for Don Fillers, David Wood and James Mathis. The three defendants face up to five years on asbestos charges and Fillers up to 20 years for obstruction of justice.
In a 47-page sentencing memorandum, they asked the judge to "send a clear message that our nation's laws that were intended to protect human health and worker safety cannot be knowingly sacrificed for personal avarice."
However, attorney Leslie Cory said the correct guideline range for Fillers, a Missionary Ridge resident and owner of Chattanooga Hardwoods, should be 15-21 months and he should get probation.
A hearing is Wednesday regarding expert witnesses for the sentencing hearing. The hearing itself is Sept. 20.
The memorandum says Don Fillers and his brother, Gary Fillers, formed Watkins Street Properties in July 2003 to acquire the old plant, demolish it and salvage the items, and resell the cleared property.
It says Don Fillers was given an estimate of $214,650 to properly dispose of the large amount of asbestos at the plant. It says SCI Remediation gave a bid of $129,250, but Fillers rejected that and got a bid for $28,900.
The memorandum says Wood was hired as site manager because he had formerly worked at the plant and was familiar with it. The Mathis firm was hired for the demolition.
Prosecutors said much of the asbestos was not property removed, and that Wood and a female were seen picking up asbestos material by hand and putting it in garbage bags. They said Mathis hired day laborers, drug addicts and street people who were totally untrained in asbestos handling to do much of the work.
The memorandum says the way the demolition was handled it sent asbestos into the air in a large portion of the old plant and into the neighborhood.
It says John Schultz, an inspector with the Chattanooga Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau, happened upon the site while on a foot patrol on Sept. 8, 2005. He said it "looked like a bomb had gone off with debris (containing asbestos) strewn across the site."
A team of inspectors from multiple agencies came to the site and began a cleanup.
Prosecutors said asbestos is an extremely dangerous and deadly substance and it is "highly likely" that within five to 30 years that those involved in the demolition as well as some of those in the nearby community will experience negative health effects.
A jury convicted the defendants of all charges except one minor count against Mathis.
Prosecutors said Fillers and Mathis have a "relative lack of criminal history," but that Wood is a convicted child molester.