When Westinghouse Corporation left the small Allegheny County (PA) town of Churchill, they left a huge mess behind. Inside the sprawling structures they abandoned were huge amounts of asbestos-containing materials including tiles, insulation, and more.
As the property deteriorated, buyers stepped forward, intent on redeveloping it, giving hope to those who were tired of looking at the eyesore and whose property values were deteriorating because of the presence of this mess in the otherwise pristine town, named for the Presbyterian church that has sat at the top of the town’s highest point since 1837.
Unfortunately, the new property owners got off to a bad start. It was discovered that they ordered the improper removal and disposal of literally tons of asbestos from the old Westinghouse site, a move that endangered not only the workers they hired but also the general public.
Finally, however, the Allegheny County Health Department is cracking down on the owners and developers of the site, Ramesh and Vikas Jain. Yesterday, they announced the imposition of a $1.4 million dollar fine against the pair.
“This is the largest monetary fine that we’ve ever levied against an entity for an asbestos-related violation of our county rules,” Jim Kelly, of the Allegheny County Health Department, said in a statement to the press.
A county spokesperson explained that hundreds of thousands of feet of asbestos tiles were literally ripped from the buildings at the site and deposited into thin trash bags that were not meant for the disposal of toxic waste.
They were then hastily loaded onto a pickup truck. They likely were sent to landfills not licensed to dispose of asbestos though the bags are still missing and no one has seen fit to admit to where they were taken.
Sadly, the workers charged with the task of removing the toxic tiles were unlicensed and also unprotected. Chances are they may have been “day workers”, hired by Pintura Construction, which is also being fined $450,000 for improper asbestos removal and removal without a permit.
The local CBS affiliate notes that they have been trying to contact the Jains for comment but have not received a return call. The pair owns a Motel 6 in the town but has not been available to the press.
A story aired on the station’s newscast notes that the Jains were about to receive some $3 million in state development grants for the improvement and development of the Westinghouse site, but – at this point – it is unlikely that they will ever see that money.
In the meantime, the people of Churchill are beginning to lose hope of ever seeing that site developed and are resigned to dealing with the eyesore just a little bit longer.