Huffpost Chicago

Asbestos Dumped In A Field In Impoverished Black Township

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An Illinois real estate developer has been accused of dumping toxic asbestos in a tiny, mostly-black town mired in poverty.

Michael J. Pinski, a Kankakee County businessman, was indicted by the U.S. Attorney's office for depositing 127 plastic trash bags filled with the highly dangerous material in an open field in Hopkins Park, Illinois.

The bags were unlabeled, no warning signs were placed near the area, and the material was disposed of so poorly that it has leached into the impoverished township's soil.

Details in the indictment reveal the egregious nature of the violations, yet as The Capitol Fax blog noted, the local Kankakee Daily Journal barely made mention of the allegations, running just a four-paragraph story.

More from CapFax:

A check of past issues shows the Daily Journal has interviewed Pinski several times. They talked to him about the Kankakee mayor's race and how he's surviving the economic downturn. They did a big puff piece on Pinski a few years back while he was developing the Dearborn Business Center downtown. But now that he's under indictment? A little more than passing mention.

Pinksi and his cohorts allegedly endangered the health of who knows how many people by disgustingly dumping asbestos - of all things - in an open field, and it gets four grafs in the only paper in town.

HuffPost Chicago reported extensively on the Hopkins Park area, after a tornado passed through several weeks ago. The destitute region has suffered from natural disasters, ill-conceived charity and government failures: after the tornado, it took personal intervention by Governor Pat Quinn to have the area declared a "disaster area," as county officials failed to act.

Now, it is simple human avarice that is victimizing Hopkins Park. The indictment of Pinski and two others states that Pinski hired Duane O'Malley's fire protection company -- untrained in asbestos disposal -- to remove the hazardous waste from one of his buildings. O'Malley's company would have cost "substantially less than a trained asbestos abatement contractor," according to the document.

The safety violations noted in the indictment:

"failure to notify the EPA prior to the removal; failure to have present during the removal any on-site representatives who were trained to comply with EPA's regulations for asbestos removal; failure to ensure the asbestos insulation was adequately wetted while it was being stripped and removed; failure to mark vehicles used to transport the asbestos-containing waste material during the loading and unloading of the waste with signs that included the words "DANGER," "ASBESTOS DUST HAZARD," "CANCER AND LUNG DISEASE HAZARD" and "Authorized Personnel Only"; and, failure to deposit the asbestos in a waste disposal site for asbestos."

Pinski, O'Malley and James Mikrut, who allegedly recruited and oversaw workers for the asbestos removal, are charged with five violations of the Clean Air Act. Each violation carries with it a maximum sentence of five years in prison.