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Major downtown developer hit with fines
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Newschannel 3 has obtained a report from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration that shows MIOSHA investigated concerns from multiple contractors and even a business inside the Metropolitan Center of lead based paint, asbestos and mold.
"I had multiple guys that were off work for periods of time and we thought it was just the flu bug going around," says Mike Schwartz of Schwartz HVAC.
He says the string of illness started just after he, his son, and his crew began work at the Metro Center.
"They'd come back and then they'd get sick again," says Schwartz.
He says he finally brought his concerns to MAVCON.
"As we started questioning the job site conditions and talking about it we got cease and desist letters," says Schwartz.
Joe Agostinelli, A VP at MAVCON Business Advisory Group, declined an on camera interview but tells Newsshannel 3 "Schwartz HVAC has been a pain in our side, kicking up allegations to the point that we (MAVCON) are now filing suit against the Schwartz's for business defamation."
But Mike Schwartz says he and his family are not lying and they will not back down.
"We were in areas that weren't ventilated. We were in areas that were supposed to be cleaned but weren't," says Schwartz.
Michigan doesn't have laws regarding mold so MIOSHA referred that concern to the Department of Community Health. MIOSHA's investigation did find lead, cadmium and asbestos. Initially the discovery resulted in two "serious" violations, one for inadequately supervising asbestos work, the second for improper disposal of asbestos materials. The two citations added up to $2,500 in fines. However, after an appeal by MAVCON, MIOSHA ended up dropping the fines.
"Workers were only exposed to a small amount of hazardous material," says MIOSHA Inspector Mike Mason, "but the violations stood."
"Knowing that it was there all of us would have had respirators on," says Schwartz in response to MIOSHA's investigation.
MAVCON received another notification of penalty issued by MIOSHA January 10th of this year. It addresses Schwartz's concerns saying MAVCON failed to warn contractors of the existence of asbestos materials or tell them how to protect themselves against it leading to another "serious" violation citation from MIOSHA. MAVCON has appealed that violation as well. "It's a minor issue but we won't comment further on an open case," says Agostinelli.
But Marla Schwartz, Mike Schwartz's wife and business partner says it's anything but a minor issue to them.
"It's been pretty rough watching my husband and my son and myself become sick and not understand why," says Marla.
The Schwartz family’s health concerns since working at the Metro Center are well documented. The Schwartz's have provided Newschannel 3 with records from Michigan and Michigan State University Hospitals as well as Borgess Hospital showing treatment for chronic and severe upper respiratory illnesses for all three family members.
The Schwartz's have retained Attorney James M. Giffels.
"We will be filing suit against MAVCON for the Schwartz's current and future health concerns as soon as possible," says Giffels.
Once a decision is made by MIOSHA on MAVCON's most recent violation appeal, we will let you know.