Crown Heights Community Council President Rabbi Moshe Rubashkin's former Montex mill in Allentown, PA is back in the news again after a series of arson fires. Rubashkin oews the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes and fees. His "mortgage holder," Skyline Industries, Inc. of Brooklyn, NY now officially owns the property. Sources tell FailedMessiah.com that Skyline Industries is closely tied to the Rubashkin family and that at least two Rubashkins control Skyline's operations and sit on its executive.
Elliot Grossman of the Allentown Morning Call reports:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fears that hazardous chemicals pose an ''imminent'' and ''substantial'' risk to the Allentown neighborhood surrounding a fire-damaged textile mill.
Because of the potential threat, Allentown has asked the EPA to remove hazardous chemicals at the Montex Textiles building on the city's south side. The city lacks the money and technical expertise to do the work itself, the agency said.
A massive fire gutted the building in April, and a series of smaller fires have flared up since then. The agency believes that the fires have released hazardous chemicals or that explosions and new fires could release those chemicals.
The property owner, Skyline Industries Inc. of Brooklyn, N.Y., was ordered by the agency to remove the hazardous chemicals itself. But it's unclear if the company has done anything.
The EPA has had difficulty finding the owner and, as of two weeks ago, had not received a response to its order. The factory has been closed for several years.
After EPA failed to get cooperation from the owner, it sought court-ordered access to the site. On Oct. 7, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arnold Rapoport of Allentown granted the agency permission to inspect the property and remove the chemicals.
The building is at S. Sixth and Cumberland streets in a mostly residential area. Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital is two blocks away, and Jefferson Elementary School is less than four blocks away.
Access to a dead-end street on one side of the building is blocked by a yellow rope, which has two warning signs. One sign warns people against lighting matches or smoking cigarettes in the area. The other cautions people to wear protective clothing.
EPA said it posted a security guard at the site around the clock.
In a detailed court filing and an order, EPA outlined the hazards it believes exist at the property.
One of EPA's biggest concerns is powdered aluminum found in the fire debris. In July, during demolition of the building, the highly ignitable substance started another fire.
According to the EPA, during an August inspection officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the city saw 10 drums of powdered aluminum there, labeled ''danger, explosion hazard.'' In September, the EPA noticed that seven drums were broken and that powdered aluminum covered about 60 cubic yards of building debris.
The inspectors also saw two drums of sulfuric acid, two drums of acetic acid, three drums of hydrogen peroxide, one drum of boric acid, two compressed gas cylinders and about 100 drums of textile dyes and other unidentified materials. Powdered aluminum, sulfuric acid and acetic acid are considered hazardous substances by federal regulators. The EPA documents do not explain why any of the chemicals were in the building.
Last month, city fire officials told the EPA that an ''imminent'' fire hazard exists at the site.
''If a fire were to start at the site,'' EPA official Richard Rupert wrote, ''it could spread to the surrounding buildings and the resulting smoke could contain numerous hazardous substances, such as aluminum dust, that could spread to the nearby neighborhood.''
A fire would cause the hazardous liquids, including the sulfuric and acetic acid, to be released onto the ground, allowing the liquids to flow onto streets and into storm sewers, Rupert wrote.
The Oct. 5 cleanup order EPA sent to Skyline Industries directed it to comply within one day. It warned that failure to comply could result in penalties of up to $32,500 per day.
After the April fire, the city set aside more than $400,000 to demolish the building because it presented a danger to the public. During the demolition, new fires started, causing nearby residents to be temporarily evacuated.
Most of the bricks and masonry walls of the building still stand, but the inside was severely damaged by fire. The first fire took more than a day to extinguish.
Meanwhile, city police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are continuing an investigation into the initial fire on April 19. It has been ruled arson.
The first fire happened days before the building was to be sold at a sheriff's sale because of more than $100,000 in delinquent taxes.