- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Owner of Westwood Gym Sued for Illegal Asbestos Work During Renovation
Boston — The owner and manager of a Westwood gymnasium has been sued for allegedly exposing workers and patrons – including young children – to harmful asbestos fibers when conducting illegal renovations and asbestos work during the gym’s operating hours, AG Healey announced today.
The complaint, filed Friday in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that the New England Sports Academy, LLC (NESA), and its owner and manager, Henry Shterenberg, violated the Massachusetts Clean Air Act and its regulations. The gymnasium offered various classes and athletics training for children and adults including after-school sports, children’s parties, school field trips and evening classes. The AG’s Office alleges Shterenberg allowed the illegal removal of asbestos-containing material during the November 2015 renovation of the 22,600-square foot facility without following required safety precautions and procedures.
“We allege that the owner of this gymnasium put the public, including young children, and workers, at serious risk by exposing them to asbestos while renovating without a license,” said AG Healey. “We will take action against unsafe business practices that violate our environmental laws and endanger the public’s health.”
According to the complaint, the defendants also failed to notify the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) of the asbestos abatement work and did not hire a licensed asbestos contractor to perform the work. The AG’s Office also alleges Shterenberg failed to properly dispose of the asbestos-containing material and that workers allowed dry, broken and uncontained asbestos-containing material, including dust, to remain in the interior of the gymnasium and the parking lot area – where staff and customers passed through during operating hours – during the renovation.
“The asbestos rules are in place to protect the public” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “MassDEP will aggressively enforce its regulations to ensure that these important rules are followed.”
In response to a complaint from a parent attending a children’s birthday party at NESA, MassDEP inspected the gymnasium and closed the business after test results confirmed the presence of asbestos-containing material. The defendants have since closed the gymnasium, it has been cleaned by licensed asbestos contractors, and it now remains vacant.
The AG’s complaint seeks civil penalties for violations of the Clean Air Act and its regulations.
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, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs 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 develop 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, 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 $2 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 is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Jillian Riley, with assistance from Senior Regional Counsel Colleen McConnell, Asbestos Program Section Chief John Macauley, and Asbestos Program Environmental Analyst Grady Dante, all of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington.