Unsafe Asbestos Removal Delays Demolition at Former Beech-Nut Factory

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Demolition work at a former Beech-Nut plant in Canajoharie, NY is being delayed due to several reasons, including the removal of asbestos. The Mohawk Valley village had hopes for the factory’s redevelopment plans, but foreclosure, as early as next year, now seems likely with the $500,000 owed.

The owner Todd Clifford bought the four-story factory in 2013 for $200,000 with intentions of demolition and renovation to attract new tenants to the revamped warehouse. It has been dormant for three years now.

The unsafe handling of asbestos and overdue asbestos-related cleanup bills are a major concern for the 27-acre site which dominates downtown Canajoharie. Demolition was paused last year for improper removal of asbestos as it can lead to the deadly mesothelioma cancer.

“They were stopped in their tracks in the fall,” said Canajoharie Village Mayor Francis Avery, but he claimed uncontained asbestos was confined to the inside of the warehouse as to not be released into the open air. If that was to occur, the wind could easily carry it to the village.

Two professional surveys indicated that some of the complex’s buildings are over 100 years old and contained a massive amount of asbestos. Chruchill Environmental Inc., of Syracuse, found asbestos in more than 50% of their samples taken from the plant. AECC Environmental Consulting, of East Syracuse, discovered asbestos-tainted cement and caulking on the warehouse’s roof.

Most recently, construction was held up again after the fourth asbestos abatement company, (CGK Environmental Services, of Schenectady,) to be hired quit because they weren’t being paid.

Edgeco Environmental Inc., of Cohoes, also claims they are owed over $53,000 in unpaid bills to ”remove asbestos, remove pipes and dispose of materials.” Clifford says the company took shortcuts during the abatement.

When a reporter from the Times Union visited the site, signs of proper demolition techniques were not apparent. In a populated area, water should be sprayed on the site to decrease the chance of particles and dirt traveling through the air. The reporter noticed debris piles not contained in any sort of barrier and no water was being used. Plus, the piles were in close proximity to a stream that leads to the Mohawk River.

The New York State Labor Department is the appropriate enforcer of asbestos removal rules and approval of permits. “They approve all the paperwork, building by building,” said the mayor. A department representative was questioned by the Times Union about the abatement enforcement history at the site and asked for reports on its removal, but he had nothing to share.

A Freedom of Information Law request, which requires records to be provided within 20 business days, was submitted for the records in January and they were to be produced by February. Now the Record Access Office says it’ll be June due to a backlog of FOIL requests.

“The Department is actively involved in finding a resolution to the asbestos issue at the Beech-Nut site,” said Brian Keegan of the Department. “While the matter is pending with the department and, consistent with agency policy, we cannot comment further at this time.”

“At this point, the county will most likely be foreclosing on the property when it becomes possible in the spring of 2016, “ said Kenneth Rose, CEO and director of the county Business Development Center. She deems the 851,000-square-foot complex to be “an environmental liability” and therefore construction will not begin again until the owner hires another asbestos company.