JPG owner fined for allegedly exposing workers to asbestos

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by Adam Walser

WHAS11.com

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 5:23 PM

(WHAS11)-  The owner of Jefferson Proving Ground is facing steep fines, after the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration finds multiple violations threatening worker safety.
 
WHAS11 News first told you about the investigation in February, involving the disposal of dangerous asbestos.
 
A 22-page report issued by Indiana OSHA outlines dozens of knowing violations and imposes fines of $132,000 against Ford Lumber and Building Supply, Inc., owned by Dean Ford.
 
The report says when workers at Jefferson Proving Ground removed thousands of feet of asbestos insulation from pipes and buildings, they wore street clothes.
 
Owner Ford, who agreed to purchase the 3,400-acre property from the U.S. Army for $5.1 million, allegedly did not provide or require protective equipment.
 
 Rather than using federally mandated disposal practices, the report says those employees used straw brooms, dust pans and shop vacuums to clean up the material, throwing it in unsealed dumpsters.
 
According to the report, 14 dump truck loads of asbestos were found beside the JPG Airport, close to dozens of homes and businesses.
 
“There was a known hazard to employees,” said Stephanie McFarland, spokeswoman for Indiana OSHA. “And to some degree, there was a known disregard for their safety.”
 
Many worry about those exposed, since asbestos can cause cancer and mesothelioma.
 
“I don't want to get that close to it. I've worked construction and been around it, so I know what's involved with it,” said Mike Bear, who lives near JPG.
 
At Chelsea General Store, the history of JPG is celebrated.
 
However, owner Tony Williams thinks the government is coming down too hard on identifying asbestos.
 
“It's gonna be a huge drain to our government and everything like that and we've got enough drains already,” said Williams, who told WHAS11 he is familiar with the licensed contractor that is now working to remove the asbestos from the site.
 
The EPA, The Indiana Department of Public Health and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management are also investigating.
 
Several violations listed in the Indiana OSHA report occurred as late as April 1 of this year.
 
Indiana OSHA says Ford's attorney has asked for an informal conference to discuss what is listed in the report.
 
WHAS11 tried to reach Ford on Monday but have not yet heard from him.

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