CHURCHILL (KDKA) — The developers of the old Westinghouse research property in Churchill were called before a county health department hearing officer Monday, accused of illegally removing tons of asbestos materials from the building.
His attorney would have no comment, but inside the closed hearing, Ramesh Jain faces $1.4 million in fines. He’s accused of directing unprotected workers to remove tons of asbestos-laden floor tiles from the old Westinghouse research property in Churchill.
“The action taken that we have taken is we have evaluated the strongest fine that we can, to make sure that we have as big an impact as possible to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” Jim Kelly of the ACHD said.
KDKA-TV was first to tell you of the allegations — that developers Ramesh Jain and his son VJ stand accused of having the asbestos removed, bagged and hauled away by unsuspecting workers without regard for any safety protocols. No protective suits or breathing equipment for the workers. No sealing of the building, negative air pressure or encapsulation of the asbestos waste.
Attorney Ken Hardin represents a Jain employee named Raymond Sida, who was directed to remove the tiles after the Jains told him there was little or no asbestos present.
“He was also told by the Jains that this was legal, and that they had permission to do this,” Hardin said.
But Sida himself now stands accused of heading a company called Pintura Construction, charged with illegally removing asbestos. But Hardin says his client was set up by the Jains, who formed the company without Sida’s knowledge and made him the head so he would take the fall.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “So they’re trying to make your client the fall guy here?”
Hardin: “Yes, that’s absolutely correct.”
It’s a drawn out process. After Monday’s hearing, both sides will submit briefs, and a ruling will be weeks away. Then it will be determined whether the Jains must pay one of the largest fines in county history.