Heating Contractor Pleads Guilty, Sentenced for Illegally Removing Asbestos From Medway Rental Property
Also Pleaded Guilty to Witness Intimidation
DEDHAM — A Plainville-based heating contractor has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to jail in connection with the improper removal of asbestos in a single-family rental property in Medway and for witness intimidation, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Nicholas Pasquantonio, age 43, of Wrentham, pleaded guilty on Monday in Norfolk Superior Court to two counts of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act for failure to follow required procedures for the removal of asbestos and failure to file a notice of asbestos removal with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), and one count of witness intimidation.
After the plea was entered, Judge Thomas Connors sentenced Pasquantonio to one year in the House of Correction, with six months to serve and the balance suspended for a period of three years, during which he will be on probation. Judge Connors also ordered Pasquantonio to pay a $2,500 fine and to have no contact with the victims in the case.
“This defendant put the public’s safety at risk by violating the guidelines for reporting and removing asbestos, an extremely hazardous toxin,” AG Coakley said. “Further, this defendant attempted to tamper with the integrity of our criminal justice system by intimidating potential witnesses.”
“Plumbing and heating contractors are well aware that asbestos must be properly removed by trained and licensed asbestos contractors,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Improper asbestos removal work that exposes workers, tenants and the general public to a known carcinogen is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
In December 2010, Pasquantonio, who was not a licensed asbestos contractor, was hired by local landlord to replace the boiler in a Medway property occupied by a family with several children. Despite having knowledge that the job would involve asbestos, Pasquantonio did not follow the required safety procedures in removing the asbestos from pipes on the heating system, including but not limited to sealing off the work area. After being notified by the Medway Board of Health of a possible unlawful asbestos abatement, MassDEP inspected the site and found the improper removal and release of asbestos.
Pasquantonio also failed to notify MassDEP that he would be disturbing asbestos when replacing the boiler and did not follow the appropriate procedures to prevent asbestos emissions. 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.
Further, when Pasquantonio became aware he might be charged criminally, he went to the property where the illegal asbestos removal had occurred and intimidated two potential witnesses in the case not to testify against him.
These charges stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit which is overseen by AG Coakley, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, and MassDEP Commissioner Kimmell. The Strike Force comprises 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 Norfolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against Pasquantonio in January 2012. The defendant was arraigned in Norfolk Superior Court in March 2012. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Monday.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Daniel Licata, with assistance from Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of AG Coakley’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force, officers of the Massachusetts Environmental Police and Gregory Levins of the Central Regional Office of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.