For Immediate Release - March 31, 2011

Methuen-Based Developer Indicted for the Illegal Removal and Disposal of Asbestos

SALEM - A Methuen-based developer has been indicted for the improper removal and disposal of asbestos for work performed on a multi-family residence in Lawrence, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced.

Robert A. Norcross, age 51, was indicted on charges of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act (3 counts), 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 waste. The asbestos containing material was pipe insulation removed and disposed of from a property owned in trust by Norcross in Lawrence.

"We allege that Mr. Norcross ordered unlicensed workers to remove asbestos containing materials without taking required safety precautions, and in doing so, potentially endangered his tenants, workers, and the public at large in the process," AG Coakley said. "Asbestos is a hazardous material that must be properly removed and reported to ensure the public's safety and prevent people from being exposed to this dangerous toxin."

"MassDEP will continue to investigate individuals and companies that ignore the law regarding asbestos removal and disposal," said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell. "The Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force will fully investigate and prosecute those who attempt to cut corners regarding the laws and regulations, and in doing so endanger public health of unsuspecting residents."

The indictments 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.

According to authorities, in May 2010, the Strike Force received information that Norcross had ordered the improper removal of asbestos containing insulation from the multi-family apartment building he owns in Lawrence. Authorities allege that Norcross engaged workers in the removal process without the notification to MassDEP. Further investigation revealed that the insulation had been removed by untrained workers in an area of property used by tenants to wash laundry.

According to authorities, 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.

Authorities allege that after the removal process had taken place, the workers transported bags of asbestos containing material and debris to an unlicensed facility in New Hampshire for disposal.

An Essex County Grand Jury returned indictments against Norcross on March 25, 2011. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in Essex Superior Court on April 14, 2011.

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 Attorney General Michael Gilbert with assistance from Environmental Police Officers and MassDEP counsel Colleen McConnell, and Karen Golden-Smith, John MacAuley and Joseph Paparella.