Hefty Asbestos Removal Costs Delay Demolitions

Demolition Asbestos Exposure

An Illinois investor laments that the only thing he acquired from a recent property acquisition is a big headache involving deadly asbestos.

Joey Chernis, partner in P. Mills, LLC, owns the former Pillsbury Mills plant in Springfield that’s been sitting vacant since 2001.

The company currently faces a $500 daily fine retroactive to Sept. 9 for failure to contain asbestos and secure the 18-acre site, according to State Journal Register. Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes mesothelioma.

The Illinois attorney general sued P. Mills and Midwest Demolition, owned by Chernis’ father, after the state’s Environmental Protection Agency inspectors discovered dozens of plastic bags filled with asbestos and asbestos-contaminated debris improperly disposed.

According to Chernis, the company already spent $15,000 to hire an environmental engineer, but it can’t afford to complete the entire cleanup.

“None of us have that kind of money. We’ve tried to borrow money, but we were turned down because of all the publicity,” Chernis said.

Costly Asbestos Removal Fees Stall Demolitions

Commercial eyesores remain standing across the country for the same reason: Hefty asbestos removal fines.

Asbestos removal costs can easily tally into the thousands of dollars, often halting the demolition of defunct factories and commercial facilities that blight neighborhoods and become havens for vagrants and drug dealers.

Detroit’s former Packard Automotive Plant sits as a ghostly reminder of Motor City’s automotive glory days. Discussions about its fate are mixed, from restoration and rebuilding to razing the 3.5-million-square-foot structure.

The automotive plant is laden with asbestos, and regardless of the final decision, asbestos removal will be the first step, and it will come with a price tag in the tens of thousands.

Activity on the project moves slowly as owner Fernando Palazuelo expects to begin removing debris from the 40-acre site as the first phase in a 10- to 15-year plan to revive the complex, a Detroit News report shows.

In the meantime, the decaying expanse of brick and mortar continues to invite unwelcome guests and add to the already crumbling skyline.

Heavy Price Tag for Asbestos Mishandling

When the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) discovered asbestos-tainted pipe insulation at Fitchburg Properties in Boston, they didn’t hesitate to levy a whopping fine.

The real estate business owes the state $15,000 in penalties and an additional $20,625 if they violate the law again within the year, according to a report in the Sentinel and Enterprise News.

Workers improperly removed the insulation when replacing the facility’s heating system, leaving it scattered on the floor inside the building, around the loading dock and outside the building.

“Before starting demolition or renovation, property owners must identify asbestos-containing materials so they can be properly removed and handled in accordance with the regulation,” said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester.

“Failure to do so will result in penalties, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs,” she added.

Owner Pays the Bill

For Chernis and his partners at the Pillsbury factory, the nightmare continues.

In the end, the tally for the state lawsuit could result in as much as a $50,000 fine, plus a daily $10,000 fine for each day of violations and court costs.

Additionally, representatives from the Illinois EPA say the agency will eventually hire an asbestos removal firm to clean up the site — but not at a cost to the state.

Chernis and his co-owners can expect a bill.

  1. Aguilar, L. (2015, April 23). Renovation of a Packard Plant Building Underway. Retrieved from: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/2015/04/23/packard-plant-display-group/26267423/
  2. Saal, R. (2014, October 6). Flashback Springfield: In its glory days, Pillsbury Mills provided jobs and sweet smells. Retrieved from: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20141026/NEWS/141029698
  3. Landis, T. (2015, November 10). Pillsbury site owners cited for civil contempt over asbestos cleanup. Retrieved from: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20151105/NEWS/151109761

Beth Swantek has been writing professionally for 30 years. She is a former news reporter and anchor for a CBS affiliate in Michigan and often reported breaking medical and political news. Currently, she teaches media writing and video production at Lawrence Technological University in the Detroit area, as well as working as a freelance writer and producer.

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