PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A Mt. Lebanon real estate developer has been charged in federal court for illegally removing asbestos from the former Westinghouse facility.
Vikas Jain, a 47-year-old from Mt. Lebanon, was federally charged with one count of knowingly violating work practice standards of the Clean Air Act, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced on Monday.
The charge stems from accusations that Jain participated in the largest asbestos removal case in Allegheny County’s history.
In 2012, Vain purchased the George Westinghouse Research and Technology Park in Churchill with the intent to turn the one million square feet of former testing and laboratory space into residential and commercial properties.
According to a county Health Department report, Jain gave unlicensed workers grinders to grind up and bag asbestos without any regard for proper procedures or precautions.
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The county says hundreds of thousands of feet of asbestos-laden tiles were ripped from the hallways.
The removed asbestos was then improperly dumped. According to information the Department of Justice said was presented in court, the asbestos was put in trash bags and taken to a dumpster outside one of Vain’s residential rental properties.
After that, the contents of the dumpster were taken to a local landfill that wasn’t cleared to receive asbestos-contaminated waste.
Vain also tried to coverup the illegal removal, the Department of Justice said.
“As western Pennsylvanians, we cherish our abundant natural resources, and we take seriously our responsibility to protect them,” said U.S. Attorney Brady said in a press release.
“In this case, an unscrupulous developer is charged with illegally removing and dumping asbestos in violation of the Clean Air Act, thereby compromising not only our region’s air quality, but also the health of the workers hired to perform the removal activity.”
If convicted, Vain faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.