A television station in Goshen, Indiana has obtained correspondence showing that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) hid the fact that they knew about large amounts of asbestos and asbestos-containing debris left out in the open in that town and did nothing to address the problem.
According to an account filed by WTHR-13 News, the Indiana Attorney General’s office release 28 emails to the station, citing a move towards more transparency. The emails, which were originally blacked out and unavailable for viewing, are now filled in.
Many of them came from an IDEM inspector, who is currently being investigated for issuing “no violations” for improper asbestos removal at the old Johnson Controls site in Goshen, despite the fact that he had asbestos samples in hand, notes the report.
In one email, dated November 20, 2014, inspector John Clevenger refers to a photo taken by a colleague, noting that he sees suspect asbestos and telling the recipient that he has a bad feeling about the situation and hopes he is wrong.
James Weingart, IDEM’s Northern Region Director responded, saying Clevenger and the employee with the pictures were going to meet at the site to “get some samples so that we can prove that there is asbestos.” He also asked former IDEM Commissioner Carol Comer to appoint someone to take the lead on the investigation.
However, records show that no samples were ever taken in November 2014, despite concerns that dated all the way back to 2012. Back in April of that year, another email indicated that IDEM inspectors were walking around the site without respirators, kicking toxic materials around as they collected an occasional sample.
“The fact that IDEM employees were in and out of the building with no regard to possible asbestos contamination does not help our case at all,” said Clevenger in the email. “If this information got out via the news media or any other outlet, we certainly would not look good.”
The inspector then revealed that the state agency did not have the evidence it needs to make its case.
“Never actually saw anybody strip the asbestos and Mr. Adkins won’t confess, there is no ‘smoking gun’ what (do) we do?” he questioned.
Clevenger said he could not say for sure whether Adkins, the new owner of the site, or Richard Swift, a contractor who’s committed asbestos violations in the past, did demolition without removing the asbestos first.