Attorney General Maura Healey recently announced that the general contractor in charge of the demolition of the former South Shore YMCA building in downtown Quincy and a Wakefield-based environmental consultant hired to monitor the demolition work will pay a total of $180,000 to settle allegations that they caused or allowed illegal asbestos work at the site announced today.
The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, settles, in part, a lawsuit filed by the AG’s office on June 30 against Callahan Inc., the Bridgewater-based general contractor, Axiom Partners, the Wakefield-based environmental consultant, and J. Kerrissey Inc., a Plymouth demolition company. The lawsuit alleges that Callahan and Axiom violated the state’s clean air law and regulations by causing or allowing J. Kerrissey to demolish approximately 45,000 square feet of asbestos-containing ceiling plaster without sealing the work area, using proper protective equipment or using work practices required by law to minimize asbestos exposure.
The claims against J. Kerrissey for its role in the violations were not settled by the consent judgment and will proceed in Suffolk Superior Court.
“Asbestos can pose serious health risks to workers and the public when not handled properly in compliance with law,” said Healey. “Companies must ensure construction and demolition work involving asbestos is done safely and legally, and we will take action against those who endanger their workers and local residents.”
According to the lawsuit, the demolition work generated visible clouds of dust and piles of dusty asbestos-containing waste material, which workers then dropped out of a second-floor window into an unlined dumpster adjacent to the sidewalk. The site is located in the middle of downtown Quincy, a high-traffic environmental justice neighborhood, adjacent to the Quincy High School and the new South Shore YMCA.
The AG’s office also alleges in the complaint that workers performed illegal asbestos abatement work on at least three subsequent occasions during the demolition, including after a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection inspector noticed the violations, halted asbestos work and ordered the workers out of the building. Following the violations, the site was cleaned up and the demolition work was completed safely under the supervision of MassDEP.
“It is critically vital that asbestos abatement work be conducted in a safe manner and in accordance with established work practices, particularly in densely populated urban areas,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “Failing to do so can significantly impact the public health of workers, passersby and nearby businesses and residents.”
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is used in a wide variety of building materials, including roofing, flooring, siding, wallboard, caulking and insulation. If asbestos is improperly handled or maintained, fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, potentially resulting in life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs for which there is no known effective treatment. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin membranes of the lung, chest, abdomen and heart, that may not show up until many years after exposure, and that has no known cure, although treatment methods are available to address the effects of the disease.
Healey has made asbestos safety a priority, as part of the office’s “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air” Initiative that was announced in March to better protect the health of children, families and workers in Massachusetts from health risks posed by asbestos. Over the past year, the AG’s office has successfully brought asbestos enforcement cases that together have resulted in up to $665,000 dollars in civil penalties.
For more information on asbestos and asbestos-related work, visit MassDEP’s website outlining asbestos construction and demolition notification requirements — http://mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/air/programs/asbestos.html.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Louis Dundin, of Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with help from Senior Regional Counsel Colleen McConnell and Asbestos Program Section Chief John MacAuley, of MassDEP’s Northeastern Regional Office in Wilmington.
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