Court Orders Up to $80,000 in Civil Penalties for Four Companies after Improper Asbestos Removal
Work Done as Part of Former Sun Newspaper Building Conversion to Condominiums
BOSTON – Four companies have been ordered to pay the Commonwealth up to $80,000 in civil penalties for the improper removal and disposal of asbestos-containing pipe insulation and ceiling tiles at the former Lowell Sun newspaper building in Kearney Square, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
“Our office is committed to enforcing the state’s environmental laws and pursuing those who put workers and the public at risk by failing to control the release of dangerous asbestos fibers,” AG Coakley said. “Property managers, owners and contractors must take the proper precautions to ensure the containment of asbestos at all times.”
“Asbestos abatement work must be done in a manner that is protective of workers and public health,” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Our asbestos inspectors, investigators and legal staff will hold responsible those who fail to ensure that asbestos abatement work is done in compliance with applicable regulations.”
According to the complaint filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, JDL Incorporated of Dracut, Sun Building, Kearney Square Properties and TopNotch Homes, all limited liability companies in Tewksbury, violated the state’s Clean Air Act by removing and disposing of asbestos-containing pipe insulation and ceiling tiles without using proper containment procedures to prevent the release of asbestos. The companies also allegedly failed to provide the required notifications to the Department of Environmental Protection (“MassDEP”).
The demolition work was performed as part of the conversion of The Sun (Lowell) newspaper building to condominiums in February 2009. Because of the health risks associated with the release of asbestos fibers, the law requires strict adherence to air pollution control methods when someone proposes to perform asbestos abatement work in the Commonwealth.
The settlement, also filed and approved by the court today, requires the current owners of the property (Sun Building and Kearney Square Properties) and their demolition contractor (JDL, Inc.) to pay a civil penalty of $80,000 for the alleged violations, $30,000 of which may be forgiven if the defendants comply with the judgment in the case. The Sun newspaper moved from the location in 2007 and is not involved in the alleged violations and is therefore not a party to the lawsuit.
MassDEP shut down the demolition operation when the agency learned of the violations and required that the defendants immediately contain the asbestos. The developer complied with MassDEP’s demand that it hire a licensed abatement firm to fully secure and properly dispose of the material. As a result of the prompt response by MassDEP, it is believed that the asbestos was properly contained and disposed of soon after the material was removed from the building.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg, of Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, is representing the Commonwealth in the litigation. Attorney Colleen McConnell is handling the case for MassDEP, along with environmental analysts John MacAuley and Karen Golden-Smith of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office.