Webster Plumber Indicted on Illegal Asbestos Removal and Disposal Charges
Defendant also faces larceny and child endangerment charges
Daniel Watterson, age 40, was indicted on charges of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act for Failure to File Notices of Asbestos Removal with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), Improper Removal of Asbestos-Containing Material, and Improper Disposal of Asbestos-Containing Materials. Watterson was also indicted on charges of Child Endangerment (2 counts), Larceny over $250 by False Pretenses (3 counts), Larceny over $250 of a Victim over Sixty Years of Age, Larceny under $250 of a Victim over Sixty Years of Age, and Larceny over $250.
"Asbestos is a dangerous material that when improperly removed can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time," AG Coakley said. "Our office is committed to upholding the law to protect children from being exposed to this dangerous toxin."
"Illegal asbestos removal places workers and the general public in danger of inhaling dangerous asbestos fibers," MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt said. "The MassDEP asbestos staff will continue to vigorously enforce the law and will ferret out those who seek to subvert regulations that are intended to protect the public."
According to authorities, Watterson, a plumbing and heating contractor who has operated in the Worcester County area under the business names "The Clog Specialist," "Dan the Clog Man," "Dan the Heating Man," and "DW Plumbing & Heating," illegally removed and disposed of asbestos from a Worcester residence in April 2008. Watterson was contracted for the removal and installation of boilers for the home heating system. Authorities allege that Watterson contracted and instructed two teenage boys to dispose of asbestos-containing material from two older boilers.
The removal of asbestos must be done by a licensed contractor utilizing Personal Protective Equipment pursuant to MassDEP regulations with notification as to when the removal will occur. According to authorities, the unlicensed teenage workers failed to wet the asbestos prior to its removal, and did not wear respirators or protective clothing during the removal process. Authorities allege the teenage workers crudely removed the asbestos from the boilers and pipes by ripping the insulation and chipping it with putty knives. The insulation was allegedly piled in the cellar space before being placed in trash bags and transported to a dumpster owned by Watterson for disposal. Authorities further allege that the workers broke down the boilers and its components, using sledgehammers and hacksaws. The components were later rejected by a local scrap yard for disposal due to visible asbestos.
In addition, authorities allege Watterson regularly took advantage of residential, commercial, and elderly customers, frequently overbilling them for deficient plumbing and heating services. According to authorities, Watterson would overcharge his customers, sometimes claiming the bill was a flat rate for the job, and also charged customers' credit cards without their consent. Authorities also allege that work completed by Watterson was often deficient, requiring consumers to have the work redone by qualified professionals.
The indictments are the result of an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force (ECSF), an interagency unit which is overseen by AG Coakley, MassDEP Commissioner Burt and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian A. Bowles. The ECSF comprises prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General's Office, and investigators and engineers from the MassDEP which investigate and prosecute crimes that harm or threaten the state's water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.
Indictments were returned today against Watterson by a Worcester County Grand Jury. Watterson will be arraigned in Worcester Superior Court on later date.
Members of the public who have information regarding a potential environmental crime are encouraged to contact the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force Hotline at 1-888-VIOLATE (846-5283) or the Attorney General's Office at 617-727-2200.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Andrew Rainer and Dara Reppucci with assistance from Ashley Cinelli of the Victim Witness Services Division. ECSF officials involved in this investigation included Environmental Police Officers and MassDEP officials Don Heeley and Gregg Levin.