For Immediate Release - March 29, 2011

Lawrence Company Sued for the Improper Removal and Storage of Asbestos From Gardner Senior Center

BOSTON - A lawsuit has been filed against a Lawrence company and its president for failing to follow proper procedures and safety precautions while removing asbestos-containing materials from a senior center in Gardner, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced. The lawsuit, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court against Environmental Restoration Services Corporation (ERSC) and its president, Jorge Elias, seeks civil penalties for violations of the Massachusetts Clean Air Act.

According to the complaint, ERSC, a licensed asbestos removal contractor, and Elias engaged in the illegal removal of asbestos-containing materials from the Gardner Senior Center during its conversion renovation in June 2009. The complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in the removal process without the authorization or approval from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) or the City of Gardner's consultant.

The complaint alleges that Elias and ERSC completely gutted the first floor of the Senior Center and partially removed vinyl asbestos floor tiles from the basement. According to the complaint, the defendants dumped the broken pieces of dry vinyl asbestos floor and other asbestos-containing materials with demolition debris removed from the first floor into a 40-yard roll-off open top container in the parking lot of the Senior Center. The complaint further alleges that the defendants did not cover or contain, wet, label, or seal the asbestos-contaminated demolition debris that was stored in the container, in the parking lot, or on the ground, as required by law.

"Asbestos is a dangerous material that when improperly removed can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time," AG Coakley said. "Exposure to asbestos can create a serious health risk. It is extremely important that the proper removal and disposal procedures are followed to ensure the health and safety of the public and our office will aggressively pursue those who violate the laws."

"The actions taken here were under the guise of licensed asbestos removal, but, in fact, broke the very laws covering the removal and disposal of asbestos that are in place to protect public health and the environment," said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell. "Most licensed contractors do the job right, so those who try to cut corners need to be rooted out."

The City hired the consultant to ensure that the asbestos removal was completed in accordance with MassDEP regulations. 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 removal, safety, storage, and disposal of the asbestos throughout the abatement process.

Assistant Attorney General Betsy Harper of AG Coakley's Environmental Protection Division is handling the case. Mary Jude Pigsley, Greg Levins, and Don Heeley are working on the case for MassDEP.