Beech-Nut says it will not pay for the multimillion-dollar asbestos clean up at its former plant in Montgomery County, despite a federal order issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April.
EPA workers recently sealed off piles of asbestos-containing debris and the exterior walls of the plant. The sealant prevents asbestos fibers from being released into the air and lasts around six months.
For two years before that, the piles had been exposed at the site nearby downtown Canajoharie near Albany, New York. The state has passed numerous asbestos laws that regulate the manufacture, use, and distribution of asbestos products. Still asbestos exposure can occur and eventually lead to mesothelioma cancer.
Local and county officials estimate clean up and demolition has cost around $10 million so far. Also, the last two owners did not pay local property taxes dating back to 2013 for a total bill of over $1.7 million.
Company spokeswoman Kirsten Whipple said, “We agree the asbestos issue in Canajoharie should be resolved, however Beech-Nut shouldn’t be ordered by the EPA to clean up an issue we didn’t create.”
According to the EPA, Beech-Nut was aware of the asbestos issue before selling the plant and property in 2012. Developer Todd Clifford bought it for $200,000, stripped it of all valuable scrap metal, and left behind asbestos debris piles in the open instead of developing it like he promised.
In December of 2014, Clifford sold the 27-acre property to a business associate named Jeffrey Wendel.
“Beech-Nut has not owned the property since 2013. In fact, the property has been sold twice since we owned it,” said Whipple. “At the time Beech-Nut sold the property in 2013, we had complied with the environmental standards regarding asbestos-containing materials without creating health risks for employees or the community.”
The EPA “shall make a determination regarding its response,” said agency spokesman Elias Rodriguez. The county continues to decide if it will foreclose or take ownership of the plant and property.