Indictment: Marion officials knew fire department had asbestos, allowed community exposure

(MGN graphic)

The Marion City Administrator and Fire Chief have been indicted on multiple charges related to accusations that they knew the city’s fire department building contained asbestos and allowed staff, volunteers and community members to be exposed to the cancer-causing material, according to court paperwork.

Alan Thomas Ammon, the Marion city administrator and building inspector, and Ralph Walton Cooper, III, a.k.a. Trey Cooper, the Marion fire chief, are both charged with misconduct in office; violations of pollution control act; and conspiracy to violate the pollution control act, according to indictments filed on Nov. 2, 2017.

The two were arraigned Friday morning and both granted a personal recognizance bond.

The indictments allege that, between Feb. 1 and May 1 of 2017, Ammon and Cooper:

Knew that the City of Marion Fire Department Building contained asbestos and allowed fire department staff, volunteers, and/or members of the community to be exposed to asbestos and/or be present in asbestos contaminated locations during the demolition and preparation of the City of Marion Fire Department Building.

The indictments also allege that both men allowed “asbestos containing waste to be discharged into the environment” and conspired to do so.

Marion Mayor Ashley Brady said following Tuesday's city council meeting he is aware of indictments against the city administrator and fire chief.

Brady released the following statement on the matter:

The city of Marion is aware of the indictments against the two of its employees. We are monitoring the situation. And are in the process of determining what action, if any needs to be taken by the City of Marion. However, cause this is a personal matter there will be no further comment until the charges are resolved through the legal process.

Ammons acted in his official stead during Tuesday's city council meeting. He gave his monthly report to council.

Cooper was also at the city council meeting.

We've learned the indictments are tied to asbestos discovered at the Marion Fire Station on Bond Street late last year during an inspection by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control..

ABC15 News reported back in May the city spent $30,000 to remove the asbestos.

Ammons told us then the asbestos had been in the building for a long time, but wasn't discovered until floor tiles were pulled up following all the flooding from Hurricane Matthew back in October.

DHEC officials said they requested the recreation room, as well as adjacent rooms, be closed and a contractor hired to identify what contamination may exist.

Ammons released the following statement back in May on behalf of the City of Marion:

The City of Marion is aware of concerns about the presence of asbestos in a portion of the fire department damaged by Hurricane Matthew. The City is committed to the health and safety of our employees and citizens. The City has been in continuous contact with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) since the discovery of the damaged area in the fall of 2016, and believes that it has complied with the regulatory requirements and instructions from DHEC employees relating to asbestos detection and removed. As this matter involves the legal interests of the City, there will be no further statement at this time.

We're told some firefighters have concerns about their health after being exposed to the asbestos.

They said the city has yet to make available to them medical exams to determine if the asbestos has affected their health.

DHEC officials said this week the asbestos cleanup of the fire station was completed on May 17, 2017, with all DHEC regulations followed.

They said air monitoring was conducted after the cleanup using approved methods.

Officials added the fire station was deemed safe for public re-entry on May 30, 2017.

The case against Ammons and Cooper is being prosecuted by the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, according Communications Director for the SC Attorney General's Office Robert Kittle.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off