For Immediate Release - February 13, 2014

AG Coakley Sues Owner of Former Paper Plant in Lawrence for Illegal Demolition, Asbestos Violations

Court Order Prohibits Owner from Continuing Unpermitted Work

BOSTON – The owner of a former paper plant site in Lawrence has been prohibited by a court order from conducting illegal demolition and metal salvaging that releases asbestos at the property, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The AG’s Office has filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against David Padellaro and his now defunct company, Merrimack Street Redevelopment Authority, LLC for alleged violations of the state’s asbestos and hazardous materials laws. Today, the court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Padellaro from conducting further work at the property, unless necessary for the authorized demolition of unsafe buildings that have been damaged by a series of fires. The City of Lawrence has issued demolition orders for several buildings at the site.

“This site has put workers and the public at risk,” AG Coakley said. “We are pleased that this order will help clean up the property in an environmentally safe way and allow it to be restored by the City for economic development.”

“Mr. Padellaro has willfully ignored MassDEP’s enforcement actions and exposed workers and potentially others to a public safety hazard and an unnecessary environmental risk,” said Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “With this action, we are hopeful that this site, located within an environmental justice community, will finally be safely cleaned up.”

“This property has been a safety concern for many years,” Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said. “I am optimistic about this first step towards cleaning, securing and revitalizing this critical site in the city.”

The South Canal Street property located along the Merrimack River site was acquired by Padellaro in 2010 and contains numerous vacant and structurally unsound and asbestos-containing buildings that have been repeatedly subject to fire and vandalism, many of which are in danger of potential collapse. The site has also been subject to several releases of oil and hazardous materials.

Despite issuance of two administrative orders by the MassDEP and repeated warnings of the risks to his workers, Padellaro has continued metal salvaging operations over the last several months without implementing legally-required safety measures including:

  • wetting building areas to prevent the release of asbestos;
  • monitoring the air during such operations; and
  • properly disposing of asbestos-containing waste material at the site.

According to the complaint, Padellaro has also allowed the illegal storage of solid waste at the site, such as concrete, brick, metal and other debris, and has failed to give MassDEP required notice of his metal salvaging and demolition activities on numerous occasions over the past three years. He also allegedly repeatedly failed to implement protective asbestos emission control measures, including sealing off of the work areas to prevent exposure to asbestos from his activities. To date, MassDEP has incurred more than $86,000 in contractor and oversight costs at the property.

The complaint seeks civil penalties, as well as costs incurred for the assessment, containment, and removal of hazardous material at the site. 

Between the late 1800s and 2005,the 3.4-acre site was used by the Merrimac Paper Company as a paper processing and finishing plant. The site contains at least 28 interconnected buildings or structures, ranging in size and up to four stories above ground, as well as various subsurface components. The buildings have been damaged by fires in November 2009 and August 2010, and most recently, a five-alarm fire in January that severely damaged several buildings on the site.

The court order halts all demolition and salvage work at the site, with the exception of a MassDEP-approved plan to finish demolition work at the fire-damaged buildings, in accordance with asbestos, waste cleanup, and hazardous materials laws, as ordered by the City of Lawrence.

Assistant Attorney General Tracy Triplett from Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division is handling this case, with assistance from Investigator Anthony Crespi, along with John MacAuley of MassDEP’s Asbestos Compliance Program, Chris Bresnahan of MassDEP’s Waste Site Cleanup Program and Colleen McConnell of MassDEP’s Office of General Counsel.

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