November 22, 2014

Anderson man sentenced for releasing asbestos while demolishing mill

An Anderson man was sentenced to more than three years in prison after prosecutors say he continued to demolish an old mill despite knowing the building contained hazardous levels of asbestos.

37-year-old Scott Farmer was sentenced Tuesday to 41 months in prison and three years supervised release after earlier pleading guilty to knowing endangerment by release of asbestos.

Prosecutors said Farmer and his employees were working on demolished portions of Haynsworth Mill in Anderson between November 2012 and April 2013 in order to sell scrap metal from the building. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental said it repeatedly warned Farmer to stop work on the building because of the asbestos, which have been linked to cancer. However, investigators said Farmer continued to do the work without setting up safeguards for his employees or customers who bought the scrap metal.

In March 2013, DHEC issued an emergency order against Farmer to cease all activities on the site due to the hazardous levels of asbestos. But inspectors said they caught Farmer doing more demolition work on the site a month later.

“Exposure to asbestos can cause serious health problems and in some cases may prove fatal,” Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in South Carolina, said in a statement. “The defendant’s actions threatened not only the environment but the safety of his workers and the surrounding community.”

The former cotton mill was built in 1948 and operated in the heart of Anderson until its closure in 1996, according to research by the Greenville Textile Heritage Society.