Operator of Worcester Assisted Living Facility to Pay Up to $75,000 to Settle Allegations of Asbestors Violations
Settlement Requires Asbestos Assessments and Any Needed Asbestos Removal at Affiliated Facilities
BOSTON —A Rowley based corporation will pay up to $75,000 to settle allegations that workers improperly removed, handled, and disposed of asbestos-containing debris during renovations at a long-term care facility for elderly psychiatric and disabled patients in Worcester, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
According to a consent judgment approved Tuesday by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Ames, West Side Corporation has also agreed to have a licensed asbestos inspector investigate the West Side House in Worcester and similar facilities owned by six affiliated corporations for any asbestos that may have to be removed in accordance with applicable laws.
“We are pleased to have resolved allegations that West Side Corporation removed asbestos without using licensed contractors and without following proper abatement procedures. Improper asbestos removal places the health of workers and those who live, visit and work at places where asbestos removal is taking place at risk,” said AG Healey. “This is a public health issue and we will prosecute anyone who puts members of the public at risk by improperly handling asbestos-containing waste materials.”
“The Commonwealth’s asbestos regulations require property owners to identify asbestos-containing materials before beginning any demolition or renovation activity, so the materials can be properly removed and handled safely,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and following required handling and disposal practices to protect the public health is imperative for any project.”
According to the complaint, West Side Corporation’s in-house workers removed asbestos-containing demolition debris, including floor tiles, textured ceiling plaster and sheet rock, during an April 2014 renovation of West Side House’s human resource office. The company performed this work without giving required pre-work notice to MassDEP and without following required procedures for the proper abatement of asbestos. The in-house workers allegedly removed the asbestos-containing debris without wearing appropriate protective equipment.
The complaint also alleges that in-house workers at the facility rolled open trash barrels containing asbestos debris through a hallway in West Side House and disposed of the waste in a trash compactor outside of the building. The AG’s Office is alleging that West Side Corporation violated the portion of the state’s Public Health Law that addresses air pollution prevention, the state’s Solid Waste Management Act, and these statutes’ implementing regulations.
The regulation of asbestos handling is important to protect human health. Airborne friable 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 exposure.
The affiliated corporations include Erlin Manor Nursing Home, Inc., d/b/a Blaire House of Tewksbury; St. John’s Nursing Home, Inc., d/b/a Brandon Woods of New Bedford; Dartmouth House Nursing Home, Inc., d/b/a Brandon Woods of Dartmouth; Claflin Hill Corp., d/b/a Blaire House of Milford; Houghton Corporation, d/b/a Blaire House of Worcester; and Island Park Corporation, which operates the Rowley corporate offices where West Side Corporation and other entities are headquartered. According to records of the Secretary of State, Frank C. Romano is the sole officer and director of all of these corporations.
Under the consent judgment, the required asbestos inspections of West Side House and the other affiliated properties, and all necessary asbestos removal, must be conducted promptly by qualified and licensed asbestos professionals, with proper pre-work notice to MassDEP. The consent judgment also requires that if West Side Corporation acquires additional properties within four years, those facilities must also be inspected for asbestos. For all properties covered by the consent judgment, all asbestos-containing debris must be removed, handled, stored and disposed of by licensed personnel and only at properly permitted asbestos disposal facilities. To help avoid future violations, all West Side Corporation personnel who perform any demolition, renovation, repair and/or maintenance work at any of the covered properties must participate in a two-hour Asbestos Awareness Training Course offered by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (DLS) or a DLS-accredited training provider every two years.
Of the $75,000 in civil penalties, $25,000 will be suspended and will be waived if West Side Corporation complies in full with the terms of the Consent Judgment over its full term.
This case has been handled by Assistant Attorney General Fred Augenstern of Attorney General Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from various MassDEP personnel, including Greg Levins, Don Heeley and Anne Blackman of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester.