For Immediate Release - September 28, 2011

Methuen-Based Developer Pleads Guilty, Sentenced for the Illegal Removal and Disposal of Asbestos From Lawrence Residence

SALEM — A Methuen-based developer has been ordered to pay a $20,000 fine and serve probation after pleading guilty for the improper removal and disposal of asbestos for work performed on a multi-family residence in Lawrence, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. 

Robert A. Norcross, age 51, pleaded guilty in Essex Superior Court to three charges of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act: failure to file a notice of asbestos removal with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), improper removal of asbestos-containing material, and improper disposal of asbestos waste.  The asbestos containing material was pipe insulation in a multi-family residential property in Lawrence owned in trust by Norcross.  After the plea was entered, Superior Court Judge John T. Lu sentenced Norcross to 18 months probation.  Under the terms of probation, and an administrative consent order with MassDEP, Norcross must pay a fine of $20,000, with $10,000 suspended during the period of probation.  Norcross is also required to participate in asbestos training and have all of his properties inspected and properly abated of asbestos containing materials. 

“Asbestos is a hazardous material that must be reported, removed, and disposed of properly to ensure the health and safety of the public at large,” AG Coakley said.  “The defendant ordered unlicensed workers to remove and dispose of asbestos containing materials without taking the proper precautions, putting people at risk.”

“MassDEP will continue to use every tool in its arsenal to fully investigate and develop cases like this, where unsuspecting workers were put at risk, and where individuals ignore the long-standing asbestos notice, handling and disposal procedures,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant and a known carcinogen, so we strictly enforce the regulations that are on the books to protect the public health and the environment.”

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit which is overseen by AG Coakley, MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell, and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.  The Strike Force 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 who investigate and prosecute crimes that harm or threaten the state’s water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.

In May 2010, the Strike Force received information that Norcross had ordered the improper removal of asbestos containing insulation from one of his residential properties.  Norcross engaged workers in the removal process without the required notification to MassDEP.  Further investigation revealed that the insulation had been removed by untrained workers in an area of the property used by tenants to wash laundry. 

The workers failed to do the work in a properly contained space to prevent the release of asbestos fibers within the building, and did not adhere to air filtering or other protective measures while removing the asbestos containing materials.  Pursuant to MassDEP regulations, the removal of asbestos must be performed by a licensed contractor with notification as to when the removal will occur and requires certain methods and standards for the safe removal, storage, and disposal of the asbestos throughout the abatement process. 

After the illegal removal process had occurred, one of the workers transported bags of the asbestos debris to an unlicensed facility in New Hampshire for disposal.  

An Essex County Grand Jury returned indictments against Norcross on March 25.  Norcross was arraigned on April 14, in Essex Superior Court at which time he entered a plea of not guilty and was released on personal recognizance.  Norcross pleaded guilty yesterday and was sentenced.

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 was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Eloise Lawrence with assistance from Massachusetts Environmental Police and MassDEP counsel Colleen McConnell along with MassDEP investigators and Karen Golden-Smith, John MacAuley and Joseph Paparella.