Myrtle Beach condo tower renovation leads to criminal charges over asbestos pollution

dwren@thesunnews.comJuly 10, 2013 

— Renovation of the oceanfront Regency Towers condominium building here has led to criminal charges against a Little River man accused of knowingly creating a health risk for workers and residents and letting friable asbestos blow onto the beach, the building’s landscaped areas and its parking lot, according to an indictment in federal court.

David Braswell and his company, Cool Cote LLC, face seven violations of the federal Clean Air Act related to work they did at Regency Towers in March 2009. Braswell also faces two felony charges of making false statements to federal agents investigating the matter. The charges carry a combined maximum of 45 years in prison.

Braswell pleaded not guilty to the charges during a court hearing last month and is free on an unsecured $35,000 bond while awaiting trial. Greg Harris, a Columbia lawyer who represents Braswell, declined to comment on the case because it still is in the early stages.

According to an indictment filed on May 22, Braswell started renovation work at Regency Towers without conducting an asbestos inspection or filing a written notice with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, as required by law. Cool Cote also pressure-washed the building’s exterior without properly securing the area to prevent a release of friable asbestos, defined by the EPA as material that would readily release asbestos fibers when damaged or disturbed.

“The workers for Cool Cote Inc. were not provided with respiratory protection, nor were the residents of Regency Towers informed of the danger and provided personal or environmental protection,” the indictment states.

Prosecutors say Braswell and other Cool Cote employees knew about the presence of at least 35 cubic feet of asbestos-containing material in the building’s exterior coating but proceeded with the renovation without taking legally required precautions.

The indictment also states that Braswell lied to criminal investigators with the federal Environmental Protection Agency on two occasions, saying “he had no knowledge of the presence of asbestos on the siding of Regency Towers.”

DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said the agency typically does not comment on pending legal matters, but did work with the EPA to investigate the incident “and referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution.”

Cool Cote was registered as a Florida corporation at the time it did the renovation work at the nearly 40-year-old Regency Towers building at 2511 S. Ocean Blvd. Florida officials administratively dissolved the company in 2010 because it failed to file an annual report. Cool Cote then filed its corporation documents in South Carolina.

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.

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