The Westinghouse Corporation was once a major presence in the town of Churchill, Pennsylvania, a small borough of about 3,000 people located some 10 miles from Pittsburgh. So, when the company decided to leave, the population was disappointed but later buoyed by the promise of new development on 135 of the 160 acres that once included an electrical engineering and chemical lab facility.
But now those plans, which were to begin with the renovation of a 120,000-square-foot building on the property, are in jeopardy because the developer is now under investigation for allegedly improperly removing tons and tons of toxic asbestos from the property without following proper protocol or informing state or local agencies about the asbestos contamination issues.
Hence, the Allegheny County Health Department has now issued a work stoppage order and has also ordered all buildings on the property to be sealed.
“It’s hundreds of thousands of square feet of asbestos,” said Jim Kelly, of the Allegheny County Health Department’s Environmental Health section, during an interview with the local CBS news station.
The removal and handling of asbestos in an improper manner puts anyone at the site of the work in great danger of asbestos exposure, which can eventually result in a diagnosis of diseases such as mesothelioma cancer or asbestosis.
Sadly, KDKA -TV has already obtained video of unlicensed and unprotected workers roaming the hallways of two of the buildings onsite, removing yards and yards of asbestos-containing tiles.
In the video, it is clear that no one is wearing the proper gear nor are they using the correct methods for removing any sort of asbestos material, which should involve wetting down the material before removal in order to minimize dust.
The station also has a number of still photos that appear to show garbage trucks piled high with bags that allegedly contain the asbestos materials.
All of that waste wound up in those trucks illegally and may have even been disposed of at a landfill that doesn’t except toxic material though no information was available as to where the trucks eventually wound up.
What is clear, however, is that all the work was done without the proper safeguards, say Allegheny County officials. For example, buildings weren’t sealed, negative air pressure was not used, and the asbestos waste was not encapsulated, they point out.
Ramesh Jain and his son Vikas purchased the property two years ago for $1 million. The Jains have been in trouble with the law before. A Motel 6 owned by the pair was the site of a prostitution ring and the police are called there often to investigate drug overdoses.
The Jains have already received several million dollars in state grants to refurbish the Westinghouse property. Looks like, however, that they’re saving money by taking shortcuts…shortcuts that will no doubt end in tragedy for some of their unsuspecting workers, who authorities say were made to grind up the asbestos and bag it, all without wearing as much as a face mask.