- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Property Development and Environmental Consulting Companies to Pay $500,000 in Penalties to Settle Allegations of Illegal Asbestos Work at Worcester Apartment Building
BOSTON — A Boston investment property group and its related construction and management companies, a Brockton environmental consulting firm, and a New-Hampshire abatement company will pay a total of $500,000 to settle allegations regarding illegal asbestos abatement activity during their demolition and renovation project in downtown Worcester, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The consent judgments, entered today in Suffolk Superior Court, settle allegations that MG2 Group, LLC, the property investment group, Alaris Construction, LLC, the construction company, Grandis Realty Management, LLC, the building management company, Main Five Zero Seven, LLC, the building owner (together, the MG2 entities), Advanced Building Systems, Inc. (ABS), the abatement company, and Boston Environmental Corporation (BEC), violated the state’s clean air law and its regulations governing asbestos by failing to take the legally required precautions for performing asbestos work while renovating multiple floors of a partially occupied 84-unit residential and commercial building in downtown Worcester. The AG’s Office alleges that the defendants’ illegal actions caused air pollution and put the health of their workers and the building’s tenants at serious risk.
“These companies recklessly put the health of their workers and families in Worcester at risk by not taking safety precautions when handling asbestos during construction work,” AG Healey said. “We are focused on taking action against companies that ignore the serious health risks associated with asbestos exposure, especially in environmental justice neighborhoods that already experience increased environmental burdens.”
The AG’s complaint alleges that during the renovation of the building – which contains one floor of commercial space and ten floors of apartments – the MG2 entities failed to notify the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) of demolition and renovation work that affected asbestos-containing material and failed to contain, handle, and dispose of the asbestos material legally and safely over a period of several months, despite having experience with asbestos. The building tenants eventually notified MassDEP about the illegal asbestos work potentially affecting their homes and families. After MassDEP stopped the unsafe work and ordered a cleanup, the MG2 entities hired ABS and BEC to perform and oversee the cleanup, respectively. The AG’s Office alleges that the MG2 entities and BEC, however, allowed ABS to violate the cleanup plan, perform illegal abatement work and recontaminate areas of the building, including on an occupied floor, resulting in the potential exposure of tenants and workers to asbestos and violations of the Clean Air Act. According to the AG’s complaint, the MG2 entities continued to violate the state’s asbestos regulations by allowing illegal abatement work by ABS and another subcontractor after MassDEP’s involvement.
“Commercial property owners and building managers, as well as construction and asbestos consulting and abatement companies, are all well-aware of the need to identify asbestos-containing materials and must ensure that those materials are properly removed before beginning any demolition or renovation,” said MaryJude Pigsley, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “Asbestos is a known carcinogen and following the required work practices is imperative to protect workers and the public.”
Under the settlement, the MG2 entities have also agreed to conduct an extensive asbestos audit of 20 of its properties. They will pay for a professional asbestos survey of those properties, and for the abatement of any asbestos containing material that requires abatement by law. The MG2 entities have also agreed to complete additional asbestos training requirements for its project managers and enhanced notification procedures that will assist MassDEP in tracking and monitoring the MG2 entities’ asbestos work.
ABS has agreed to pay $125,000 in civil penalties, $25,000 of which will be suspended pending compliance with the consent judgment. The company has also agreed to enhanced training and monitoring requirements, including the training of the company’s president as an asbestos project manager and personal inspections of all of the company’s asbestos abatement work by the president or a hired professional substitute.
BEC has agreed to pay $75,000 in civil penalties, $25,000 of which will be suspended for two years pending no further violations of the state’s clean air law and 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, 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” that was created three years ago and focuses on combatting harms associated with asbestos by partnering with state agencies to educate the public about asbestos safety, taking action against landlords, contractors, and property owners who break the law and advocating for stronger safety protections at the federal level. 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 $3.5 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 Assistant Attorney General Lou Dundin of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Chief Regional Counsel Anne Blackman, Asbestos Program Environmental Analyst and Strike Force Supervisor, Gregory Levins, and former Asbestos Program Environmental Analyst Donald Heeley of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office.