Beech-Nut defies fed cleanup order

Claims no responsibility for asbestos since 2013 sale

CANAJOHARIE — Baby food manufacturer Beech-Nut has told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it shouldn’t have to pay for the asbestos cleanup at its former manufacturing plant and has asked the agency to withdraw an administrative order requiring it to do so.

The EPA, on April 13, issued the order requiring Beech-Nut Nutrition Company and B & B Recycling, LLC to clean up millions of dollars worth of asbestos at the 29-acre site, which served as the company’s headquarters and manufacturing site from 1891 until it moved to its new facility in the Florida Business Park in 2010. Asbestos is a material that was often used in building construction in the 20th century for its flame retardant properties until it was determined the substance can cause cancer and other deadly illnesses.

“We should not be held responsible for asbestos-related issues caused by improper disposal procedures that occurred after selling the property in 2013,” Beech-Nut spokeswoman Kirsten Whipple stated in a news release. “Beech-Nut has not owned the property since 2013. In fact, the property has been sold twice since we owned it. At the time Beech-Nut sold the property, we had complied with the environmental standards regarding asbestos-containing materials without creating health risks for employees or the community.

“Beech-Nut became aware of the asbestos debris piles only late last year after being notified by the EPA, which stated that the issue resulted after one of the subsequent property owners — or a contractor — apparently failed to follow proper procedures for removal and abatement of asbestos during building demolition.

“We agree the asbestos issue in Canajoharie should be resolved, however Beech-Nut shouldn’t be ordered by the EPA to clean up an issue we didn’t create.”

EPA Public Information Officer Elias Rodriguez said his agency is considering what to do next after Beech-Nut’s refusal to comply with the administrative order.

“EPA has received Beech-Nut’s official response declining to conduct the work pursuant to the order,” Rodriguez stated in an email this morning. “Friable asbestos at the site remains a concern. The EPA continues to evaluate its options with respect to site cleanup. Because this is an ongoing enforcement matter, the EPA is not commenting on the next steps that the agency might take.”

Beech-Nut sold the former manufacturing plant in 2013 for $200,000 to an Ohio-based company called TD Development LLC, owned by Todd Clifford. TD Development then demolished 250,000 to 300,000 square feet of the warehouse portion of the former Beech-Nut plant, removing all of the valuable copper pipe in the buildings before abandoning the site.

Clifford told The Leader-Herald in January of 2016 he sold his interest in the property in January of 2015 because he decided the asbestos remediation was becoming too expensive after several state-licensed contractors he hired were cited by state inspectors for failing to handle the dangerous waste properly. Clifford said he sold his interest in the property to Jeff Wendel, who he believes has since sold it to another entity.

According to the EPA cleanup order, the sale price of the property to TD Development was reduced from $1 million in 2013 to $200,000, primarily due to the asbestos liability.

According to the EPA order, after purchase of the property, TD LLC retained a number of different asbestos abatement contractors in order to begin abatement activities and demolish buildings on the eastern portion of the property. Some of the asbestos removed was placed in “roll-off containers.” The New York State Department of Labor then issued three notices of violation to abatement contractors and TD LLC from February to July of 2014 for “uncontainerized asbestos debris” and failing to conduct building surveys prior to abatement activities.

“On October 1,2014, TD LLC and B&B signed a “Demolition Management & Salvage Purchase Agreement” for the demolition and removal of all structures on the eastern portion of the property in return for B&B receiving the salvage rights to all materials,” reads the order.