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Demolition resumes at Jeannette Glass

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Demolition work resumed Monday on the former Jeannette Glass site after talks between Westmoreland County, the city and the sons of owner Abe Zion last week failed to produce a settlement, according to parties involved in the discussions.

Frank Trigona, site manager for Zion, said razing of steel structures and cleanup of asbestos at the 13.2-acre site of the former manufacturing plant will take at least six months. The remediation work began last summer but was halted this fall.

Trigona, Mark Zion and Josh Zion met last week in Jeannette with city attorney Scott Avolio, Trigona said. They had hoped to meet with Jason Rigone, director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. who declined to attend the session on the advice of the county attorney.

Zion Bullitt Avenue LLC in New York purchased the property in the 1980s for $2.3 million through bankruptcy court. But the industrial development corporation claims it purchased the property at a tax sale for $305,000.

“There's been very little cooperation from Westmoreland County,” Trigona said. “The county's premise is it's their property. The Zions' premise is it's their property. Even if a judge gives the IDC the site, the Zions will appeal. This will go on forever.”

Avolio said it doesn't matter to Jeannette who cleans up the former glass plant, as long as the property is made environmentally safe.

“The city's participation in the meeting was to re-ignite cleanup,” he said. “Our goal is to clean it up. I'm hopeful the county gets the property. I can't fault the county for bidding against itself. I'll work with whichever group gets the property to get it cleaned up.”

John Poister, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection in Pittsburgh, said the company notified the state last week the work would resume.

He said the asbestos that remains on the site is encased in concrete or asphalt.

“It just needs to be removed and taken to a landfill,” he said. “There's not a whole lot left that needs to be removed.”

Poister said the company's timetable for completing the job is June 30.

“We're moving in the direction that the work that needs to be done is being done,” he added.

Rigone said if the Industrial Development Corp. can obtain clear title to the land, the county would like to develop the property for industrial or manufacturing facilities because the former glass factory is adjacent to an industrial park.

Zion allegedly stopped paying taxes on the property three years ago, which allowed the county to claim it. Zion is appealing the action.

Trigona said the Zions want between $1.3 million and $1.5 million from the county for the site. They want to salvage some machinery, molds used in making glass and the steel scrap, he said.

“The Zions feel like they're losing money, and they are,” he said. “The Zions are open to an offer.”

Rigone said any settlement with the Zions is “up to them.”

Trigona said a demolition crew will raze decaying steel structures “building by building,” and a contractor has been hired to remove the asbestos that was used as insulation in the glass-making process.

“The big thing the Zions wanted to do is the remediation,” Trigona said. “There's very little left as far as a problem. But they want to address that.”

The DEP cited the development company for a series of alleged environmental violations, which the company is appealing to the Environmental Hearing Board in Harrisburg. State inspectors allege they found electrical transformers containing PCBs, arsenic in the soil and lead. They also allege that hazardous waste had been stored improperly at the plant.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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