- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

WEST POINT, Miss. (AP) - The company that’s tearing down the former Bryan Foods complex in West Point is paying a civil fine for failing to control for asbestos.

Kohart Surplus and Salvage has agreed to pay $7,500 to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, as well as to hire a certified contractor to remove or abate debris on the site that contains asbestos. The department discovered asbestos problems in a March 2013 inspection at the former meat packing plant, and said Kohart started work without checking for asbestos. The plant sits close to a residential neighborhood on the south side of the city in Clay County.

The agreement says Kohart, based in Paulding, Ohio, can’t restart demolition until it takes care of the asbestos. The company also agreed to submit a monthly report to the Department of Environmental Quality.

As part of the settlement, Kohart said it couldn’t afford to complete asbestos removal by the original deadline of Dec. 31, 2014. The order granted an extension until the end of this year, “thus allowing the corporation to remain financially solvent.”

Kohart President Ken Kohart signed the order Dec. 29, agreeing to waive hearing rights.

The company bought the plant in 2010, saying it envisioned demolishing some buildings and preparing others for reuse on the 70-acre site over three years.

Sara Lee Corp. closed the plant, West Point’s longtime anchor employer, in March 2007, laying of more than 1,200 people. Clay County has suffered from an unemployment rate among the state’s highest since the plant closed.

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