Property Owner Indicted for Allegedly Ordering Unsafe and Illegal Removal of Asbestos From Springfield Rental Property
Property owner paid tenants to remove asbestos without providing proper equipment, warning of dangers, or removal training
SPRINGFIELD — A North Grafton property owner has been indicted in connection with paying two of her tenants to improperly remove asbestos from her Springfield rental property, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The property owner allegedly failed to warn the tenants of the dangers associated with asbestos and did not ensure that they had proper protective equipment or training of removal procedures.
Susan B. Nissenbaum, age 59, was indicted by a Hampden County Grand Jury on three counts of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act for failure to file a notice of asbestos removal with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), improper asbestos removal, and improper asbestos storage.
“We allege that this defendant put her tenants at risk by having them unsafely remove asbestos from the property and failing to warn them of the dangers involved,” AG Coakley said. “Our office remains committed to upholding environmental laws to prevent people from taking shortcuts that may endanger the health and safety of others.”
“MassDEP provides licensed contractors with ample guidance and information, so that compliance with proper removal and disposal concerning asbestos should be standard procedure,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “For those who try to circumvent that process, they not only put the health and safety of workers and nearby residents in jeopardy, but they will most assuredly be looking at elevated enforcement and that could include loss of license, a financial penalty and even criminal charges.”
According to authorities, in April 2010, Nissenbaum paid two of her tenants to remove asbestos siding from the single-family rental property in Springfield that they were living in and store it on the property. Authorities allege that although Nissenbaum knew that the siding contained asbestos, she did not inform her tenants how asbestos needed to be handled and failed to ensure that they had the proper training or equipment to do so. Nissenbaum allegedly failed to ensure that the tenants follow proper procedures to prevent asbestos fibers from being released into the air. Further investigation revealed that Nissenbaum had the asbestos containing materials stored improperly at the property in torn bags. As a result, authorities allege that the tenants, their children, and others were exposed to asbestos. Nissenbaum also allegedly failed to notify MassDEP before commencing work on the project.
In November 2010, after being contacted by a licensed asbestos contractor, MassDEP inspected the site and found the alleged improper removal, storage and release of asbestos. The Department of Labor Standards requires that the removal of asbestos be performed by a licensed contractor, and pursuant to MassDEP regulations, contractors must provide notification of when the removal will occur and follow certain methods and standards for the safe removal, storage, and disposal of the asbestos throughout the abatement process.
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 consists of 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.
A Hampden County Grand Jury returned indictments against Nissenbaum on April 12, 2012. Nissenbaum is scheduled to be arraigned in Hampden Superior Court at a later date.
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 Andrew Rainer of AG Coakley’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force, with assistance from officers of the Massachusetts Environmental Police and Brian Bordeaux of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.