Seeks Remediation of All Asbestos Contamination Before Store Reopens
CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney
General Kwame Raoul has announced a lawsuit against The Kroger Co. (Kroger) and SSI Services LLC in relation to the alleged improper handling and removal of materials containing asbestos from a grocery store in Taylorville, Illinois.
The lawsuit, filed in Christian County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon, Aug. 12, alleges that Kroger and SSI Services conducted unsafe renovations by leaving chipped floor tiles that contained asbestos in areas accessible to the public while the store was open, creating a substantial danger to public health. There is no known safe exposure level to asbestos.
Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.
“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.”
In the five-count information filed, the Attorney General seeks to enjoining the defendants to halt all removal activities and retain an IDPH- licensed asbestos abatement project designer. The suit also seeks all costs by the state including attorney fees, expert witnesses and consultation fees.
In Counts II through V, the state alleges air pollution, Count II; Improper removal, handling and deposition of regulated asbestos- containing materials, Count III; Failure to adequately wet during removal of regulated asbestos-containing materials, Count IV; and failure to properly dispose of asbestos-containing materials, Count V.
In each of those four counts, the AG is seeking up to $50,000 in fines plus another $10,000 for each day the violation continues.
The Attorney General’s complaint alleges that the defendants failed to remove tiles and an adhesive known as mastic — both asbestos- containing materials — before doing work that would break up or dislodge the materials. Additionally, the complaint alleges that the defendants failed to ensure that all materials containing asbestos remained wet until collected and contained or treated in preparation for disposal. According to the complaint, Kroger and SSI Services also failed to properly dispose of all waste material that contained asbestos.
The lawsuit says between 10,000 and 15,000 square fee of tile has been improperly removed of the 40,000 square feet of floor tiling.
Observations of the broken tiles in public areas of the store led the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to issue a seal order to protect public health on July 29. Raoul is now seeking remediation of all asbestos contamination in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations before the store is reopened.
“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,” said Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim. “We are committed to ensuring the store is properly remediated prior to reopening for the safety of the employees and customers.”
The store has been closed by EPA order since July 29, 2022.
Assistant Attorneys General Christina L. Nannini and Bridget I. Flynn are handling the case for Raoul’s Environmental Bureau.