Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Firm Challenges $1.47M Asbestos Fine Churchill Site Focus of Appeal to Health Dept

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Firm Challenges $1.47M Asbestos Fine Churchill Site Focus of Appeal to Health Dept

Article excerpt

A development firm is seeking to reduce fines of almost $2 million levied for illegal removal and disposal of tons of asbestos at the 135-acre former Westinghouse research property in Churchill.

According to administrative orders filed by the Allegheny County Health Department, workers on the project were not provided with protective clothing or breathing masks when grinding and handling the cancer-causing asbestos floor tile and pipe insulation.

And no precautions were taken to prevent asbestos dust from becoming airborne outside two large buildings on the former George Westinghouse Research and Technology Park corporate campus and causing a potential public health problem.

In addition, the more than 130,000 square feet of asbestos containing tile and pipe insulation material was not disposed of in an approved landfill, and so may have been dumped illegally, according to the health department.

According to an enforcement order, issued June 2, Ramesh Jain and his son, Vikas Jain, owners of Churchill Community Development LP, and Paradigm Consultants LLC, were fined $1.47 million for multiple violations of the county's asbestos removal regulations.

A separate enforcement order, also dated June 2, levies fines totaling $451,400 against Pintura Construction LLC, and Ramon Perez, who were working for the Vains, for violations of the asbestos regulations.

Investigators from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also have been to Pittsburgh "a couple of times, building a case" on the asbestos issue, said Jim Kelly, ACHD deputy director.

A hearing was held at the ACHD offices Downtown on Monday to hear an appeal by the Jains for a reduction of the penalties, which together are the biggest ever sought by the health department in an asbestos case.

The Jains asked that the hearing be closed to the public and media, and the health department granted that request, said Mr. Kelly.

"There has been no resolution. We need additional information," said Jason Willis, assistant solicitor for the health department's air quality division." A second hearing will be held, but has not yet been scheduled."

Work on much of the multi-million dollar redevelopment project, first known as "Shoppes at Pittsburgh Studios," and then "Churchill Crossings," was shut down in May. And three main buildings, listed as "801, 501 and 401," remain "locked down," Mr. Willis said.

The project owners must apply for and receive the required asbestos removal permits and perform abatement and cleanup work in buildings 401 and 501 before work on the project can restart, he said. The redevelopment plan would convert the former Westinghouse research facility into film studios, retail shops, and office space.

The asbestos removal work was first discovered Feb. …

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