For Immediate Release - August 24, 2011

Leominster Developer Pays $100,000 for Asbestos Violations Under Settlement with AG Coakley

BOSTON - A developer will pay a civil penalty of $100,000 for violating asbestos laws related to the 2009-2010 renovation and conversion of the former Union Products site in Leominster to retail and commercial space, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

"We will vigorously pursue those who endanger the health of workers and the public by failing to control the release of hazardous asbestos fibers," said AG Coakley. "This penalty should serve as a reminder to others that we take these violations very seriously."

The Attorney General's lawsuit alleges that developer James L. Xarras failed to take the required precautions to prevent the release of asbestos fibers to the air when workers removed asbestos insulation from heating pipes, dislodged and removed pipes covered with asbestos, and removed other asbestos-containing material during renovation work in one building on the site.

Upon discovering the violations, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection MassDEP promptly shut-down the renovation project. After a state-licensed asbestos contractor implemented emergency containment measures ordered by MassDEP, Xarras continued to perform additional renovation activity. During this process, Xarras cleaned up and improperly removed more asbestos from a building before the licensed contractor started the removal and disposal of all remaining asbestos from the site. After MassDEP discovered these additional violations, the licensed asbestos contractor completely decontaminated the site and properly disposed asbestos waste from two buildings following the required environmental, health and safety regulations.

"Complying with the asbestos regulation is a critical responsibility of building owners and contractors conducting renovation projects," said MassDEP Deputy Commissioner Gary Moran. "Today's settlement imposes a tough penalty, and this case sends a clear message that we intend to make sure that building owners and contractors act responsibly to prevent airborne releases of asbestos fibers during renovation work. Building renovation work must not begin until an asbestos inspection is completed so that workers know where the asbestos materials are located."

Asbestos fibers can cause cancer and other serious respiratory problems and diseases when inhaled. State regulations are designed to help keep asbestos from becoming airborne when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed during renovation, construction or demolition work.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Ireland of AG Coakley's Environmental Protection Division prosecuted the case with assistance from MassDEP attorney Robert Brown and Regional Asbestos Chief Gregory Levins and Investigator Donald Heeley, both of MassDEP's Central Regional Office.