A well-known maker of baby food is defying an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order demanding they pay for a multi-million-dollar asbestos clean-up at the site of their former factory in Canajoharie, New York, a small town not far from the city of Utica.
The U.S. EPA made the demand last month but, yesterday, company spokespersons said they would not obey the demand because they believe the clean-up is not their responsibility.
Beech-Nut, who operated the facility at this location for decades, sold the property to an Ohio developer in 2013. No redevelopment ever occurred at the eyesore.
The building was stripped of valuable materials, like scrap metal, but then left to rot. Sadly, the developer left piles of asbestos-laden debris lying in the open air.
But while Beech-Nut claims they have no responsibility for cleaning up the toxin or any other debris left at the partially-demolished facility, EPA officials maintain that Beech-Nut knew of the presence of asbestos and the dangers it presented when they began contemplating the sale of the property back in 2012.
But after they sold the property to Todd Clifford for $200,000 in 2013, they washed their hands of all responsibility having to do with the central New York State property.
“Beech-Nut has not owned the property since 2013. In fact, the property has been sold twice since we owned it,” said Kirsten Whipple on behalf of the company. “At the time Beech-Nut sold the property in 2013, we had complied with the environmental standards regarding asbestos-containing materials without creating health risks for employees or the community.”
“We agree the asbestos issue in Canajoharie should be resolved, however, Beech-Nut shouldn’t be ordered by the EPA to clean up an issue we didn’t create,” she added.
Whipple also claims that the company knew nothing of the asbestos issue until late 2016 “after being notified by the EPA, which stated that the issue resulted after one of the subsequent property owners — or a contractor — apparently failed to follow proper procedures for removal and abatement of asbestos during building demolition.”
Now, the EPA will need to make a determination regarding the company’s response. In the meantime, workers from the agency have sealed off piles of debris that were determined to be toxic and have also sealed exterior walls where it was determined a danger existed.
The sealant, say EPA officials, will last about six months, which indicates that it’s certainly just a temporary fix.
In the meantime, the town continues to deal with the eyesore, which severely affects property values. Furthermore, locals worry about toxic asbestos dust permeating the air and about the long-term health effects of the asbestos mess that has been lying out in the open for more than four years.
The property has been a tax burden on the town as well, reports the Albany Times-Union.
“Neither Clifford nor Wendel has paid local property taxes going back to 2013,” the newspaper writes.
“The county is holding an unpaid tax bill of more than $1.7 million, as it continues to debate whether to foreclose and take ownership of the decaying environmental headache.”