DETROIT - At more than 100 years old, the old McMillian School on West End Street was an eyesore that needed to be demolished.
Ashok Badhwar's Glo Wrecking Co. got the job. However, according to court documents, Badhwar's company knew there was asbestos in the building, but failed to follow safety procedures during demolition and disposal, possibly endangering those who live nearby.
In federal court, Badhwar pled guilty to violating the Clean Air Act. He told Local 4's Kevin Dietz that he did not intentionally spread asbestos, which can cause very dangerous forms of cancer, into the neighborhood where people were living, nor was he trying to save money by skipping the expensive demolition costs. He said simply, his workers messed up.
"My guys made a mistake and I being the owner of the company, I take responsibility," Badhwar said at his Bloomfield Hills home.
He also said there was no danger to families in the neighborhood, because he said no one lives in the area.
"In the school district the families are very far from there," Badhwar said.
That same day, Local 4 talked to Lyn Woston who, with her grandchildren, lives less than 100 yards from the demolition site.
She said she watched the process and worried workers were moving too quickly.
"Didn't spray nothing, didn't let us know what was going on," Woston said.
Woston said she thinks Glo Wrecking skipped the proper asbestos removal procedures because it would have cost Badhwar more money.
"His balance, what he got would be less. That's why he didn't clean it up," Woston said.
Woston isn't the only person living in the danger zone. There are several homes close by where families with children live. Across the street are a church and more homes. Woston said she's worried about the dangerous chemicals and the impact it has on children who play outside.
She said she's glad Badhwar is going to federal court because of the incident, but doesn't think justice will be served. She hopes the judge thinks of the children who may suffer and the families who can't afford to fight for what's right when deciding what to do with the business owner from Bloomfield Hills.
"You can't fight them, how can you fight them? You can't fight a rich person," she said. "If he's rich, he probably won't go to jail. Community service."
Badhwar may not have noticed the families living next door because according to federal documents, he was not on site during the demolition. In fact, no foreman or any employee with experience with asbestos removal was at the property.
When the crews busted up the debris, they loaded it on a truck and headed to a landfill outside of Canton—a landfill that does not accept hazardous material. A Department of Environmental Quality inspector spotted the truck leaving the site and stopped it before it could unload. Tests showed the truck was loaded with asbestos. Still, Badhwar told Local 4 is was all just a misunderstanding.
He said he pled guilty because his "guys made a mistake." He wouldn't comment if he would still take responsibility for their actions if it meant he would have to serve jail time.
On May 3, Badhwar will be back in Detroit, but not doing any demolition work. He will be facing a federal judge who will decide if the misdeeds deserve fines, prison time, or both.
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