Fifty-six residents of Goshen, Indiana have filed a lawsuit against the owners of a property that was once home to a Johnson Controls plant, claiming that demolition of the plant exposed them and their properties to hazardous asbestos dust.
The suit also claims that tons of contaminated debris from that site were illegally buried on a farm that sits just east of the city.
According to an article in the Kokomo Tribune, the lawsuit also claims that “Johnson Controls retained access to the building after the sale and remains responsible for reported chemical contamination of groundwater that occurred at the plant.”
The groundwater contamination is the subject of another lawsuit that has been filed by residents of the same neighborhood, which surrounds the property where the former plant once sat.
Defendants in the suit are Johnson Controls, TOCON Holdings LLC (the current property owners), and First Federal Savings Bank of Huntington (FFSB), which holds the mortgage on the property.
The lawsuit states that Tony Adkins of TOCON conspired with a Mr. Richard Swift to tear down the old plant using heavy equipment without first obtaining the proper inspections and permits.
The demolition process was long – taking from early 2012 to March 2014 – which made it all the more hazardous.
“The desire to demolish the building was to make the site more attractive to the Goshen school board, which was considering acquiring the property to construct a softball field,” the lawsuit states.
“However, before the school would purchase the property, the buildings needed to be demolished, and demolition bids obtained in October 2009 indicated that the cost to properly demolish the buildings and haul away the debris was more than the site was worth,” the lawsuit states.
So owners of the property decided to take the cheap, easy – and illegal – way out.
“JCI, TOCON, and FFSB knew that significant quantities of asbestos remained in the buildings at the site when Swift tore them down.
However, through their actions and inactions, they conspired to have him illegally demolish the buildings and remove the debris to further their plan that GCS would purchase the property,” the complaint continues.
As a result of the illegal demolition process, neighborhood residents believe they were continuously exposed to asbestos that was stirred up by the heavy machinery. They fear for their health and the health of their children.
“The dust and asbestos blew into the plaintiffs’ neighborhood and contaminated their homes and properties,” the complaint states.
“Sometimes the dust emanating from the site was so thick that it would leave a heavy film on the plaintiffs’ cars and windows, patio furniture, and inside their homes.
“The plaintiffs, including small children, breathed the asbestos-containing dust and have been seriously harmed because the asbestos fibers are now lodged in their lungs, and could lead to serious diseases such as cancer.”