Developer of Westinghouse facility in Churchill charged with asbestos violations
A Mt. Lebanon developer has been charged with illegally removing and dumping asbestos from the former Westinghouse facility in Churchill, according to paperwork filed by U.S. Attorney Scott Brady in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on Friday.
Vikas Jain, 47, is charged with one count of knowingly violating work practice standards of the federal Clean Air Act. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Court documents did not list an attorney representing Jain. He could not be immediately reached for comment.
“In this case, an unscrupulous developer is charged with illegally removing and dumping asbestos in violation of the Clean Air Act, thereby compromising not only our region’s air quality, but also the health of the workers hired to perform the removal activity,” Brady said in a statement.
Jain purchased the former Westinghouse facility in May 2012 for $913,500 with the intention of developing the facility for commercial and residential use, according to court documents and Allegheny County real estate records.
In 2017, Jain directed workers to remove materials — floor tiles, mastic and pipe insulation — containing asbestos from two buildings at the facility, federal prosecutors contend. Jain is also accused of directing workers to rent floor grinders, which were allegedly later used to remove floor tiles and mastic.
Jain did not apply for or obtain a permit from the Allegheny County Health Department for the asbestos removal activity, according to court documents.
In addition, workers allegedly did not wear proper protective clothing or respirators. The debris was allegedly placed in black trash bags and dumped in a dumpster at a residential property.
Those trash bags were taken to a local landfill that was not qualified to receive the asbestos-contaminated waste, according to court documents.
The Allegheny County Health Department fined Jain and his development company, Churchill Community Developments LP, $1.4 million in 2017 for improperly removing and disposing of materials contaminated with asbestos from the facility.
That fine has not yet been paid, and an appeal of the fine and accompanying enforcement order issued by the health department is being considered by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, health department Spokesman Ryan Scarpino said.
The health department did not comment on the federal charges.
State Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, had previously worked to secure over $2.5 million in state grants to fund projects at the site.
Those funds were never disbursed due to concerns about asbestos removal raised by Allegheny County, Costa said Monday.
“It was put on hold, and the money is still sitting there, no one used it,” Costa said, adding that he hopes the funds will be used for another project at the site with a different developer.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .