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Illegal asbestos removal from Nestle plant was in bad taste

Charlotte residents familiar with Nestle products may have positive associations with the chocolate producer, but workers who were ordered to demolish a factory building that once belonged to the company were left feeling bitter about the illegal process. Not only were the workers not licensed to perform the work, but it was done improperly. It's possible they suffered harmful exposure to asbestos while removing it from the plant.

The current owner of the building pleaded guilty this week to violating the Clean Air Act. The felony conviction could put him behind bars for up to five years when he's sentenced in October. He also faces a maximum fine of $250,000.

According to the U.S. attorney's office, the owner of the Fulton, New York, property failed to notify the Environmental Protection Agency before starting the demolition. Once it began, workers were not instructed to follow proper asbestos removal procedure, nor did they dispose of it properly. The workers themselves were the ones to notify authorities with the U.S. Department of Labor; they were unhappy with the risks they were being forced to take.

The illegal asbestos removal was performed indoors and therefore doesn't present a risk to surrounding residents. But that doesn't mean the community isn't concerned. Another recently demolished building raised the ire of neighbors, who are likely to continue paying close attention to the property. Yet another building has been slated for demolition, and the mayor of Fulton has said asbestos could be a concern in that project. The property owner will need a permit to do the work, and he's not likely to get away with more illegal demolition tactics. In fact, if he fails to pay the back taxes he owes within 90 days, the city will seize the property.

This case is just one of many illegal demolitions that arise each year across the country. Neighbors or workers forced to deal with projects involving asbestos or other dangerous chemicals should be aware that they have the power to take action and protect themselves from potentially harmful consequences.

Source: 9WSYR.com, "Former Nestle plant's owner pleads guilty in illegal asbestos removal case," June 5, 2013

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