- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Developer and Contractor Settle Allegations of Illegal Asbestos Work at North Reading Condominium Development
BOSTON — A Georgia-based property development corporation and its contractor will pay up to $325,000 to settle allegations of illegal asbestos abatement work during excavation and construction activities for the development of a large-scale condominium complex in North Reading, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The consent judgments, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, settle allegations that Pulte Homes of New England, LLC (Pulte) and J&J Contractors, Inc. (J&J) violated the state’s Clean Air Act and its regulations governing asbestos by causing or allowing excavation work at the Lowell Road development where workers did not use proper handling practices and did not properly secure asbestos, impacted during excavation, for safe storage and disposal.
“These defendants put the health of their workers at risk when they failed to take the proper safety precautions during this construction project,” AG Healey said. “Contractors and developers who encounter asbestos during their work must comply with the law and safely handle, store, and dispose of the material, and we will hold accountable those who don’t.”
According to the AG’s complaint, Pulte hired J&J as its contractor for the construction, demolition, and subsequent redevelopment of multiple large condominium buildings at the North Reading property. The AG’s Office alleges that despite reports that identified the presence of underground utility lines and piping with thermal system insulation – a friable asbestos – inside the pipes, Pulte and J&J excavated the pipes and utility lines, breaking the asbestos in to pieces. According to the complaint, Pulte and J&J then piled the utility lines and piping at the site, which they loosely covered or removed off-site without properly handling, wetting, or storing. The AG’s Office further alleges that the defendants stockpiled and processed, by screening or sifting, a large pile of soil containing pieces of underground piping with asbestos without taking precautions to minimize the release of dust emissions from the soil pile containing asbestos. The complaint alleges that the material contained numerous pieces of piping and visible pieces of thermal system insulation.
“It is critically important that property owners, as well as construction companies, identify asbestos-containing materials and ensure that those materials are properly removed before beginning any demolition or renovation, particularly near populated areas,” said Eric Worrall, director of the Northeast Regional Office of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Asbestos is a known carcinogen and following the required work practices is imperative to protect workers and the public.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Pulte is required to pay $175,000 in civil penalties and identify an on-site representative who will be responsible for ensuring that any future asbestos work is conducted in accordance with the Clean Air Act and asbestos regulations. The settlement also requires J&J to pay $150,000 in civil penalties, with $25,000 of that amount suspended pending compliance with the consent judgment. Additionally, J&J is required to submit to the state a sworn certification that each of its employees who supervises or directs any construction, demolition, or renovation activity at the site has successfully completed an asbestos supervisor training course.
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 has made asbestos safety a priority. In November 2019, the AG’s Office 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 $5.7 million in civil penalties.
For more information on asbestos and asbestos-related work, visit MassDEP’s website outlining asbestos construction and demolition notification requirements.
This case was handled by Division Chief Betsy Harper of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Senior Regional Counsel Colleen McConnell, Deputy Regional Director for the Bureau of Air and Waste John MacAuley and Environmental Analyst Grady Dante of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington.