Beech-Nut Says No to EPA Asbestos Cleanup Order

The EPA says the partially demolished Beech-Nut factory is overrun with asbestos and the company is responsible for the multi-million dollar effort that will be required to clean it up.

Baby food maker Beech-Nut is quibbling with the EPA over an order the agency sent recently, mandating the manufacturer clean up a former site that’s contaminated with asbestos.

According to the Times Union, a media outlet covering communities in upstate New York, the plant in downtown Canajoharie is an eyesore, but that’s not the worst of it. The EPA says the partially demolished building is overrun with asbestos and that Beech-Nut is responsible for the multi-million dollar effort that will be required to clean it up.

But Beech-Nut is saying no, and here’s why: The company actually sold the site in 2013 to a developer named Todd Clifford. And while the EPA contends that the company should have been aware of the asbestos lurking within at the time of the sale, Beech-Nut has another take: Clifford had promised to re-develop the site and instead, the company alleges he actually made the problem worse by stripping it of valuable scrap metal and leaving massive amounts of asbestos out in the open. Since asbestos is only thought to be dangerous when it is disturbed and the fibers are inhaled, the factory site wasn’t causing risk until that point.

Beech-Nut also contends that it didn’t know there was asbestos in the building when it sold it to Clifford, and learned only of the issue upon receiving notice from the EPA. After the company replied, the EPA said it would make a determination regarding its response. The problem is, somebody will ultimately need to hold the bag on this one, and right now it’s federal and local agencies that seem to be stuck with mounting costs: This month, workers hired by the EPA sealed off piles of toxic demolition debris that have been exposed near the small downtown for two years. Exterior walls of the plant were also sealed.

And unfortunately it turns out the building’s owner Todd Clifford actually sold the pile of rubble to an associate of 2014 and neither of the two has ever paid property taxes. Now the county is holding an unpaid tax bill of nearly $2 million and has to decide whether foreclosure – and a seizure of the toxic property – are even an option they want to pursue.

I’m Anna Wells and this is IEN Now.

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