For Immediate Release - October 24, 2012

Acushnet Man Sued for Improper Removal and Storage of Asbestos in New Bedford

AG’s Office Alleges Defendant Violated Massachusetts Clean Air Act

BOSTON – An Acushnet man has been sued for allegedly failing to properly remove shingles containing asbestos from three New Bedford homes that he was renovating, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. 

The lawsuit against Ronald Oliveira, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, seeks civil penalties up to $25,000 per day for each violation of the Massachusetts Clean Air Act.  According to the complaint, Oliveira failed to follow proper procedures and safety precautions when removing materials containing asbestos from those three multi-family homes.

“Asbestos removal must be done properly in order to prevent exposure to asbestos fibers, which can create serious health risks,” AG Coakley said.

“The scattering of asbestos debris in a residential neighborhood presents an unacceptable public health hazard to residents and workers,” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Contractors who do not remove and dispose of asbestos properly will face enforcement and significant penalties.”

According to the complaint, on three separate occasions between September 2009 and April 2011, Oliveira arranged for the renovation of three different multi-family homes in New Bedford, two of which he currently owns and rents out to tenants. During the renovation projects, the contractors Oliveira hired allegedly caused asbestos fibers from asbestos shingles to be released into the air. The complaint alleges that neither Oliveira nor his contractors had a license to remove asbestos.

During the renovation of a Merrill Street home, in September 2009, Oliveira’s contractors allegedly began cleaning the shingles with a high pressure power washer, pulverizing them and dispersing asbestos containing materials into the air and onto ground.

During another renovation on Weld Street, in January 2011, Oliveira allegedly arranged for contractors to cover the asbestos shingles with new vinyl siding, remove a rotting second-floor deck, and drill through shingles to install heating vents, resulting in the release of asbestos fibers.

At a third renovation, on Harmony Street in March 2011, the contractors allegedly began installing vinyl siding and stripped wooden molding from the exterior, dropping asbestos shingle debris to the ground from the third floor of the building.

Oliveira is currently the property owner of the Merrill and Weld Street homes and was previously the property manager of the Harmony Street home.

The complaint further alleges that Oliveira and his contractors failed to remove the shingles prior to the renovations, and did not maintain adequate wetness to prevent asbestos dust, or cover, label, or seal containers with the transite asbestos shingles during the renovation. 

Assistant Attorney General Betsy Harper of AG Coakley’s Environmental Protection division is handling the case.  Daniel d’Hedouville and Andrew Cooney are working on the case for MassDEP.

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