Asbestos Bribe

Asbestos Bribe at Allegheny County Property

A former house painter now finds himself in the middle of an illegal asbestos removal fiasco that was carried out at the old Westinghouse property in Churchill Borough, Allegheny County, a small town not too far from bustling Pittsburgh.

asbestos bribeRaymond H. Sida testified earlier this week that developers for the former 135-acre Westinghouse research property in that small borough tried to bribe him to take responsibility for the massive illegal asbestos removal operation they perpetrated at the site, promising him a variety of perks if he would just be the fall guy.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that land owners Ramesh and Vikas Jain – who’ve been in the public eye for months now in regard to this asbestos catastrophe – offered Sida $100,000, two houses – one for himself and one for his mother, and a $5 an hour raise if he would take the blame for illegally removing asbestos from the property.

They also offered his mother a car, Sida added.

The improper removal of the hazardous material was discovered back in February by an inspector from Churchill Borough and the work at the site was finally halted by the Allegheny County Health Department in May.

There is no word as to why it took so long to stop the illegal goings-on at the property, which was owned by Westinghouse for decades.
Sida didn’t take the bait.

To this day, however, the Jains deny any involvement at all with the asbestos removal. Nonetheless, in June, the county levied the largest asbestos related fines in its history against them — $1.47 million against the Jains and $451,400 against Mr. Sida.

The county declared that, earlier this year, the father-and-son duo and Mr. Sida had removed more than 130,000-square-feet of asbestos-containing pipe insulation and floor tiles from two buildings at the former George Westinghouse Research and Technology Park.

Sadly, the work was performed by untrained, unlicensed workers who wore no protective gear whatsoever. That means they were directly exposed to the material and breathed in the asbestos dust created by the removal of the tiles and insulation.

In addition, there were no warning signs posted to alert other workers at the site that asbestos was present.

Sida also admits that all the workers were undocumented immigrants were Guatemala but insists he was only following Jain’s orders when he hired them. He knew, he said, that what he was doing was wrong.

“I had checked on the crew and saw they were cutting and ripping insulation from around the pipes. I knew that wasn’t right,” Mr. Sida said. “I asked RJ (Ramesh Jain) why they were doing that and he said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ He told me to keep my mouth shut and not to tell anybody about the asbestos removal.”

The elder Jain also told Sida – a former New York house painter and not a contractor – that the levels of asbestos in the tiles and insulation were safe.

And then three days after the site was shut down, the younger Jain called Sida – who was at another Jain-owned property in West Virginia – and asked him to come back to Pittsburgh pronto. Sida asked why.

“I asked to what purpose. He said, ‘To take the blame,’” Mr. Sida testified. “I said no and he got very angry. He promised the world — money, house, a car. ‘We’ll pay you if you take the blame. Please, my father can’t go through this.’”