CHEYENNE – A local dentist has pleaded guilty to federal charges of negligently causing the release of asbestos.
Richard Cutler, who owns New Image Dental in downtown Cheyenne, will serve three years of supervised probation and perform at least 120 hours of community service. He will also pay $25,000 in fines, $2,225 in restitution and a $25 special assessment, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the office of Wyoming’s U.S. attorney, Mark Klaassen.
The sentence stems from charges related to the renovation of the building now occupied by New Image Dental.
In 2013, Cutler bought the building at 2100 Pioneer Ave., which previously housed the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities offices, with the intention of using the space for his dental practice.
But an early inspection of the building revealed the presence of asbestos.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos is a mineral fiber that was used for insulation and as a fire retardant in some building projects through much of the 20th century. Exposure to asbestos can increase someone’s risk of lung disease, mesothelioma and asbestosis. People are most at risk to asbestos during construction work.
According to previous reporting by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, any building found to have more than 1% asbestos must adhere to federal, state and city regulations.
In Wyoming, that requires, among other things, notifying the state Department of Environmental Quality at least 10 working days prior to distribution of asbestos-riddled material.
Despite the known presence of asbestos at 2100 Pioneer Ave., Cutler’s contractor, Jacob Lee Davis, started renovation work at the building in 2015 without adhering to federal and state regulations.
An EPA investigation later found that several workers were exposed or potentially exposed to asbestos during the project, according to the memo from Klaassen’s office.
In addition to Cutler’s guilty plea, Davis pleaded guilty to knowingly violating and causing others to violate asbestos work practice standards earlier this year. A federal judge sentenced Davis to three years of supervised probation, a $9,000 fine and a $100 special assessment. Davis has also agreed to pay $2,225 in restitution.
“The defendants in these cases caused asbestos to be released, which presented a serious health threat to workers,” said Lance Ehrig, assistant special agent in charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, Denver Area Office.
“The prosecutions in these cases further demonstrate EPA’s commitment to the protection of human health and the environment.”
Kathryn Palmer is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] or 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynbpalmer.