- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Four Companies for Illegal Asbestos Work at Former Springfield YMCA
BOSTON — Four companies have been sued for their role in the improper removal, transport, and/or storage of asbestos during an asbestos abatement project at the former Springfield YMCA building, which hosts daycare programs and contains more than 100 affordable housing units, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. Springfield is an environmental justice community, and its residents are disproportionately subjected to environmental harms and risks
“We allege that the defendants’ reckless disregard of basic workplace procedures and failure to take proper precautions put the health and safety of workers, building occupants, and the surrounding community at risk,” said AG Healey. “Those who deal with asbestos have a duty to do so in a safe and legal way to protect workers and the public from the serious harms of asbestos exposure, and we will take action against those who don’t comply.”
The AG’s complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Ray Services Inc. (Ray), an asbestos abatement company; O’Reilly, Talbot, & Okun Associates, Inc. (OTO), an environmental consulting company; Allegrone Construction Co. (Allegrone), a general contractor; and Service Transport Group (STG), a transportation company, each violated the state’s Clean Air Act and its corresponding regulations.
According to the complaint, in March 2019, Ray employees illegally removed dry, spray-on fire-proofing material containing asbestos by scraping the material off ceiling ducts, pipes, and beams in unoccupied classrooms in the building. The AG’s Office further alleges that Ray workers wore improperly fitted personal protective equipment that did not protect their faces. The complaint alleges that STG provided a rusted-through waste storage container, located next to the building’s recreation area, to store the asbestos that Ray removed from the building. These improper storage practices allowed the loose asbestos-containing material to accumulate outside of the container and exposed the asbestos to the ambient air. Additionally, the AG’s Office alleges in its complaint that Allegrone and OTO had an unlawful role in these asbestos abatement activities, which caused or contributed to a condition of air pollution.
“Asbestos is a known carcinogen and Ray Services’ failure to follow required work practices, including wetting friable spray-on fireproofing materials prior to removal, could have exposed employees and children at the property to hazardous levels of asbestos fibers,” said Michael Gorski, Director of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Western Regional Office in Springfield. “It is fortunate that MassDEP performed the unannounced compliance inspections of the abatement activities and ordered Ray Services to immediately correct the violations, assess the potential release of asbestos fibers to areas of the building outside the work area, and perform cleanup of these areas as necessary.”
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used in a wide variety of building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation. If asbestos is improperly handled or maintained, fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, potentially resulting in life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, and long-term disease for which there is no known effective treatment. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin membranes of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart, that may not show up until many years after exposure, and that has no known cure, although treatment methods are available to address the effects of the disease.
AG Healey’s Office has made asbestos safety a priority. In November 2019, AG Healey released a report, highlighting the work of her office’s “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air Initiative.” Since September 2016, the AG’s Office, with the assistance of MassDEP, has successfully brought asbestos enforcement cases that together have resulted in nearly $4.5 million in civil penalties. In her May 2020 brief on the environmental factors that compound the COVID-19 pandemic’s disparate impact on environmental justice communities in Massachusetts, AG Healey identified pursuing enforcement cases in such communities as an important step to address the longstanding impact of environmental injustice on the state’s families.
For more information on asbestos and asbestos-related work, visit MassDEP’s website outlining asbestos construction and demolition notification requirements.
Assistant Attorney General Laila Atta of AG Healey’s Energy and Environmental Bureau is handling the case, with assistance from Chief Regional Counsel Christine LeBel and Environmental Analyst John Moriarty of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield.