For Immediate Release - February 07, 2014

Essex Demolition Company to Pay Up to $125,000 for Alleged Asbestos Violations

Violations Occurred During Renovation of Crompton and Knowles Building in Worcester

BOSTON — An Essex-based demolition company will pay up to $125,000 in civil penalties to resolve allegations of improper handling and disposal of asbestos during the demolition of the former Crompton and Knowles building in Worcester.

According to the complaint, filed Thursday with the consent judgment in Suffolk Superior Court, McConnell Enterprises, Inc. – a state-licensed asbestos removal contractor – uncovered piping wrapped with asbestos insulation during demolition in 2011 and allegedly left it hanging three stories above the ground, putting workers and others in the area at risk of contact with harmful fibers for an extended period of time. 

“Our office takes the mishandling of asbestos very seriously because of the health effects,” AG Coakley said. “Companies working with asbestos-containing materials must be held to the highest standards of care as ordered under our state air laws and regulations.” 

According to the complaint, when McConnell finally removed the asbestos-covered pipes and other asbestos-containing materials from the building on Grand Street, the company failed to properly handle and store it, leaving it in unmarked black plastic bags in a nearby building where people regularly come and go and other businesses operate. 

The complaint further alleges that McConnell also failed to follow proper notification procedures, preventing the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) from conducting appropriate oversight of the company’s asbestos removal activities.

“Licensed asbestos contractors are fully aware of the removal, handling, packaging and storage requirements that must be followed when dealing with asbestos-containing materials and of the requirement to provide notification to MassDEP in advance of this work,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and following the rules is imperative to protect workers as well as the general public and environment. Failure to do so will result in significant penalty exposure, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs.”

In order to secure payment under its demolition contract with the City of Worcester, it is alleged that McConnell falsely certified that it had complied with the applicable laws and regulations, violating the Massachusetts False Claims Act. The complaint also alleges various violations of the Commonwealth’s air pollution prevention statute, its asbestos regulations, and its solid waste management statute and regulations.

Under the settlement, McConnell must pay $82,500 in civil penalties to the Commonwealth and another $42,500 in civil penalties if it fails to conform to waste regulations over the next 18 months. 

The regulation of asbestos handling is exceedingly important to protect human health.  Airborne asbestos taken into the lungs by breathing may over time cause serious lung diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, long-term, non-cancer disease of the lungs for which there is no known effective treatment.  Lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin membranes of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart, and may not show up until many years after asbestos exposure.

This case has been handled by Assistant Attorneys General Louis Dundin and Fred Augenstern of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from MaryJude Pigsley, Chief Regional Counsel in the Central Regional Office of MassDEP in Worcester, and Gregory Levins and Donald Heeley, also of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office.  

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