Illinois Kroger store remains closed until asbestos can be properly removed.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has announced a lawsuit against The Kroger Co. and SSI Services LLC over the alleged improper asbestos removal at a Taylorville grocery store.
The suit, filed in Sangamon County, alleges that Kroger and SSI failed to follow state laws when they removed asbestos-containing materials from the former Cub Foods store in Taylorville while performing renovations. The suit also alleges that by leaving the chipped floor tiles containing asbestos in publicly accessible areas therefore creating an overall danger to public health.
Proper asbestos removal normally involves having an abatement company perform an audit to determine whether asbestos is present and, if so, where it resides. From there, the company will perform a professional removal.
“Kroger and SSI Services have jeopardized the public’s health by exposing shoppers and employees to dangerous materials containing asbestos,” Raoul said. “The asbestos must be remediated before members of the public are allowed back into this store. I am committed to ensuring that Kroger and SSI Services are held accountable for creating this hazard and for preventing any further harm to the public’s health and the environment.”
Asbestos was popular in building materials for many years due to its qualities of heat resistance, strength, durability and insulation. However, exposure is a serious health hazard, and there is no known safe level of exposure. While close to 50 countries have outlawed the use of the fibrous material, the U.S. is not one of them. However, with the known health causes, use and removal is strictly regulated. Inhalation of these fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
All of this began when broken tiles were observed in public areas. As a result, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) issued a seal order, which effectively sealed the entire building to prevent access due to health concerns. The suit goes on to allege that the defendants failed to ensure “that the materials containing asbestos followed the proper protocol of being, and remaining, wet until they were able to be properly contained, collected, and treated for disposal.” Furthermore, Kroger Co. and SSI Services LLC “ultimately failed to properly dispose of said material.”
To reopen, the Kroger must demonstrate complete proper remediation in accordance with all the state and federally mandated laws and regulations. Until then, the store will remain closed to the public.
Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim said, “The Illinois EPA referred this case to the Attorney General’s Office to ensure Kroger and SSI are held responsible for the improper removal of asbestos in the store, resulting in an unacceptable risk to the store’s customers and employees. We are committed to ensuring the store is properly remediated prior to reopening for the safety of the employees and customers.”
A Kroger spokesperson responded that “safety is one of the company’s core values” and assured that it “would work with officials to get the facility reopened.” Displaced employees are being offered a chance to work at another store 40 minutes away.