- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Property Development and Environmental Consulting Companies Settle Allegations of Illegal Asbestos Work at Rockland Apartment Building
A Connecticut-based property development corporation, its related companies, and two asbestos consulting companies, will pay up to $285,000 to settle allegations regarding illegal asbestos abatement work during a large-scale renovation project at a low-income housing complex in an environmental justice neighborhood in Rockland, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
“These companies put the health of their own workers and vulnerable residents at risk by not taking the required asbestos safety precautions,” AG Healey said. “We are working with our state partners to take action against companies that fail to comply with our important public health laws – especially in neighborhoods where low-income residents are disproportionately subjected to environmental harms and risks.”
“Asbestos is a known human carcinogen and MassDEP’s asbestos regulations are designed to protect public health and the environment,” said the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP) Southeast Regional Director Millie Garcia-Serrano. “MassDEP enforces asbestos regulations so that its handling, management, and disposal is done safely. Today's settlement memorializes the safe cleanup of these properties, requires payment of a substantial penalty and requires a comprehensive worker training program to ensure future safe building renovation practices by the company.”
The consent judgments, entered today in Suffolk Superior Court, settle allegations that First Hartford Realty Corporation and its subsidiaries, EH&N Construction Company, FHRC Management Corporation, Rockland Place Apartments, LP, and LTI Environmental Services, Inc., (collectively, First Hartford) violated the state’s clean air law and its regulations governing asbestos by causing or allowing significant renovation work at Spring Gate, a 204-unit state and federally subsidized housing complex, to be conducted without using proper handling and abatement practices and without properly securing the asbestos for safe storage, transport, and disposal. The AG’s complaint further alleges that during the renovation at Spring Gate, First Hartford workers failed to contain, handle, and dispose of asbestos material legally and safely, despite prior knowledge that building material on the walls, ceilings, and floors at Spring Gate contained asbestos.
The consent judgment also settles allegations that Ted Riley & Company, Inc., doing business as Enviro-Safe Engineering (Enviro-Safe), and TRC Environmental Corp. (TRC), asbestos consulting companies hired by First Hartford to assess the asbestos abatement work, illegally cleared certain work areas as clean when, in fact, asbestos was still present. The AG’s Office alleges that the defendants’ illegal actions potentially put the health of their workers, the buildings’ tenants, and the general public at risk.
Under the settlement, First Hartford and its companies are required to pay $250,000 in civil penalties, $50,000 of which will be suspended pending compliance with the terms of the consent judgment. First Hartford and its companies are also required to provide additional asbestos training for staff members, provide asbestos inspection reports and maintenance records to MassDEP, contract with an licensed asbestos consultant and an asbestos abatement contractor to be available “on call” as needed, and develop an operation and management plan to inspect and manage asbestos materials remaining in the apartments. Under the terms of two separate consent judgments, TRC is required to pay $25,000 and Enviro-Safe is required to pay $10,000 in civil penalties for their asbestos violations at Spring Gate.
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.
This case was handled by Deputy Division Chief Betsy Harper and Assistant Attorney General Jillian Riley of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Senior Regional Counsel Daniel d’Hedouville, Asbestos Program Section Chief Cynthia Baran, former Asbestos Program Inspector Jeffrey Finnegan, and Environmental Engineer Michael Whiteside of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office in Lakeville.