Fifty-six people in Goshen, Indiana have filed a lawsuit claiming that the demolition of the local Johnson Controls plant exposed them to asbestos. The lawsuit also claims that tons of contaminated debris were buried, illegally, on a farm in the eastern part of the city.
The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in Elkhart County Circuit Court.
Johnson Controls sold the building to TOCON Holdings LLC. According to the lawsuit, Johnson Controls retained access to the building and is responsible for reported chemical contamination of groundwater at the plant. The pollution of the groundwater is the center of a separate lawsuit filed by residents in the neighborhood.
First Federal Savings Bank of Huntington, which holds the mortgage on the property, is also named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that the owner of TOCON, Tony Adkins, conspired to tear down the building using heavy equipment and without the proper inspections required by law. Demolition began in 2012 and was stopped in March 2014.
The purpose of demolishing the building was to make the site more attractive to the Goshen school board. The board was considering acquiring the property in order to build a softball field.
Before the school could purchase the property, the buildings would need to be demolished. Demolition bids indicated that the cost to legally remove the buildings was more than the site was worth, according to the lawsuit. Demolition estimates ranged from $800,000 to $1.5 million.
The lawsuit cites concerns that people living near the property had been exposed to asbestos that was pulverized by heavy machinery during the demolition. The lawsuit states that dust and asbestos blew into the neighborhood of the plaintiffs, contaminating their properties and homes.
After the property was demolished in 2016, debris piles were left on the property. An inspection of the debris found asbestos. The EPA scrambled to perform an emergency cleanup of the demolition site.