- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for AG's Office Resolves Claims of Illegal Asbestos Work at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree
BOSTON — A general contractor, two subcontractors, and the Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree (defendants) have agreed to provide worker training and undertake additional remedial actions to settle allegations that they engaged in or allowed illegal asbestos work at the school during the replacement of its heating system in 2014, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. As part of today’s settlements, the contractors have also agreed to pay up to $145,000 in penalties and the school has agreed to a fully suspended penalty.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, a Corporation Sole (Archdiocese), which owns the school building, has also agreed as part of a separate settlement with the AG’s Office to undertake a comprehensive review of the presence and management of asbestos-containing material in its primary and secondary schools located in Boston and certain surrounding communities.
“Asbestos is a serious public health risk and any work on buildings with asbestos must prioritize safety, particularly for young people,” AG Healey said. “These settlements require the defendants to take important measures to ensure their workers and the public are not put at risk of asbestos exposure in the future.”
The four consent judgments with the defendants, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, settle two lawsuits that the AG’s Office filed against the defendants over the alleged illegal asbestos work at the school.
In December 2017, the AG’s Office filed a lawsuit against Columbia Construction Co., North Mechanical Services, Inc., and General Contracting Services, LLC, alleging that the companies violated the state’s clean air law and regulations when their workers failed to properly and safely handle and remove asbestos-containing pipe insulation material associated with the school building’s existing heating system. The lawsuit also alleges that North Mechanical violated the state’s worker safety laws.
In December 2018, the AG’s Office filed a lawsuit against the Archbishop Williams High School, Inc. alleging that, as the operator of the school and the entity who hired the contractors, it failed to follow through with its responsibilities to prevent those violations.
In May 2019, the AG’s Office reached a separate settlement agreement with the Archdiocese resolving claims related to its obligations as the owner of the school building.
“This case resolved a serious environmental issue while protecting the school community,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Under this settlement, the defendants are required to implement a comprehensive training program for staff and contractors so that future issues associated with asbestos-containing material in the workplace can be readily identified and resolved in a manner that protects human health, safety and the environment.”
“The Department of Labor Standards was pleased to work with our partner agencies, MassDEP and the AG’s Office, to ensure that students have a safe and healthy school environment,” said Bill McKinney, Director of the Department of Labor Standards. “We also continue to work with schools to make sure they have up-to-date asbestos management plans.”
The AG’s Office alleges that during May and June 2014, North Mechanical Services and General Contracting Services workers removed and spread asbestos-containing pipe insulation material throughout the school while they were dismantling and removing the building’s existing heating system and installing components of the new system.
The AG’s Office also alleges that the contractors and the school failed to complete an asbestos survey of the work area, as required by federal law. The same type of survey is now also required by state law.
Under the terms of the settlements, the contractors will provide additional asbestos awareness and management training to their workers and develop standard operating procedures for identifying and lawfully handling asbestos-containing material and releases at future projects. The subcontractors will also provide free medical screenings to workers who were present during the work.
The school and the Archdiocese have also agreed to train school staff to identify and avoid disturbing asbestos-containing material and implement other measures to ensure they are complying with state and federal regulations governing asbestos in schools.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is 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.
AG Healey has made asbestos safety a priority, as part of the office’s “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air” Initiative that was announced in March 2017 to better protect the health of children, families, and workers in Massachusetts from health risks posed by asbestos. Since September 2016, the AG’s Office, with the assistance of MassDEP, has successfully brought asbestos enforcement cases that together have resulted in more than $3 million in civil penalties.
For more information on asbestos and asbestos-related work, visit MassDEP’s website outlining asbestos construction and demolition notification requirements. For more information about asbestos-related worker safety and school safety requirements, visit the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards’ website for its asbestos safety program as well as its specific website for asbestos in schools.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Tracy Triplett and Paralegal Jessica Young of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, and Investigator Anthony Crespi of AG Healey's Civil Investigations Division, along with Cynthia Baran and Daniel d’Hedouville of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office in Lakeville and Avelina Correia and Michael Flanagan of the Department of Labor Standards.