John Riazzi in the Steam Plant when it was under renovation. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton Steam Plant owner pleads guilty in asbestos case

The owner of the popular Dayton event venue the Steam Plant has pleaded guilty to a federal count of failing to thoroughly inspect for the presence of asbestos.

John Riazzi, who owns the former power generating plant at 617 E. Third St., on Wednesday agreed to waive his right to prosecution by indictment and agreed to prosecution by bill of information.

Last year, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency filed a complaint against Riazzi accusing him of violating the Clean Air Act.

Authorities accused Riazzi of knowingly failing to inspect the steam plant before its renovation and knowingly failing to provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of notice before work began. Riazzi also was accused of knowingly failing to wet regulated asbestos-containing material as it was removed during renovation.

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He pleaded guilty to the information pending against him for failing to thoroughly inspect for asbestos.

In 2016, paid and directed two workers to remove roofing materials on the building that contained asbestos, according to the statement of facts in Riazzi’s case.

Riazzi had no reason to believe the workers were trained to evaluate or handle asbestos and did not tell them the roof may have asbestos, according to the statement of facts in the case.

Riazzi was warned the roof contained asbestos but did not instruct them to take any specific precautions related to the materials, the statement of facts said.

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The workers were scrap metal collectors and haulers who did odd jobs at the steam plant.

Riazzi’s general contractor, MV Commercial Construction (Miller-Valentine Group), had told him it would cost about $20,000 to abate the asbestos-containing roofing materials.

He paid the two workers about $5,000 to remove the materials over a weekend, according to the statement of facts.

In September 2016, Riazzi filed a civil lawsuit against MV Commercial Construction, alleging the company made false claims that potentially sparked a criminal investigation.

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Riazzi’s plea agreement hearing was Wednesday. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 30.

The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of fives years and a maximum fine of $250,000. But as part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will not object to probation.

St. Peter Partners LLC, Riazzi’s company, purchased the Steam Plant in 2015 from the city of Dayton.

He renovated the building into offices and an event space that is popular place to host weddings, fundraisers, parties and public events.