- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Leominster Damage Restoration Company Settles Claims of Illegal Asbestos Work at Fitchburg School
BOSTON — A fire- and water-damage restoration company based in Leominster will pay more than $67,000 in civil penalties and train its employees on asbestos safety to settle allegations of illegal asbestos work at a Fitchburg elementary school that serves environmental justice neighborhoods, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. The City of Fitchburg, which hired the company, will also implement a comprehensive plan to ensure asbestos is properly maintained at all City schools.
The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, settles allegations that SERVPRO violated the Massachusetts Clean Air Act and its asbestos regulations when it illegally removed asbestos-containing ceiling tiles from the Crocker Elementary School after a burst water pipe damaged the tiles in several classrooms.
“Companies that perform renovation and construction work – especially projects in schools – must comply with state and federal asbestos safety laws and regulations,” AG Healey said. “This settlement holds the company accountable for its illegal and dangerous actions and includes a plan that will improve public health and safety in Fitchburg’s schools.”
The AG’s complaint alleges that SERVPRO failed to recognize that the ceiling tiles contained asbestos, even though school documentation, which is required by federal law and was available to SERVPRO for review, stated that the tiles contained asbestos and required special handling. Instead, during a winter school vacation, the company allegedly broke the tiles into pieces and removed them from several classrooms, hallways, and stairwells without using legally-required safety measures. The company also allegedly dropped some of the tiles out of a second-floor classroom into a dumpster, which contaminated both floors of the school with asbestos fibers.
The AG’s Office further alleges that the City of Fitchburg hired SERVPRO even though it should have known that the tiles contained asbestos and that SERVPRO was not certified to remove the asbestos. Due to the asbestos contamination and required clean up, the school closed for the remainder of the school year, requiring the relocation of all students to neighboring schools.
“As a restoration company, SERVPRO is well aware of the need to conduct a survey for asbestos-containing materials before beginning work, and of the need to ensure that those materials are properly handled by licensed personnel,” said MaryJude Pigsley, Director of the Central Regional Office of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and by failing to follow required work practices, the company put students, school personnel, workers, and the public at risk.”
The consent judgment requires SERVPRO to pay a $67,400 civil penalty and to ensure that at least one employee on each of its work sites will have completed training to improve their awareness of the dangers posed by asbestos and the proper methods of handling it.
Additionally, after working cooperatively with the AG’s Office to create a citywide plan for asbestos management in its schools, the City of Fitchburg agreed to implement that comprehensive plan, which will improve training, notification, monitoring, and maintenance of asbestos in each of Fitchburg’s schools. This plan will bring the City into compliance with asbestos laws and improve asbestos safety. The City will also provide online information about asbestos in its schools in both English and Spanish.
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 $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. 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.
This case is being handled by Senior Enforcement Counsel Louis Dundin of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from MassDEP Central Region Chief Regional Counsel Anne Blackman, and Asbestos Program Section Chief Gregory Levins.