- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Two Companies Settle Allegations of Illegal Asbestos Work at Multi-family Homes in Worcester
Boston — Two companies will pay up to $195,000 to settle allegations they engaged in or allowed illegal asbestos work during the renovation of two multi-family homes in Worcester, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
“Illegal asbestos work can pose serious risks to public health,” said AG Healey. “We will take action against those who endanger their workers and the public by improperly handling asbestos during construction and demolition work.”
The consent judgment, entered today in Suffolk Superior Court, settles a lawsuit filed by the AG’s Office that alleges that Worcester-based general contractor Capstone General Contracting, Inc. (Capstone), and its owners and managers, Charbel and Christine Najem, violated the state’s clean air law and regulations and the state’s consumer protection law during renovations at the multi-family homes. The lawsuit also alleges that employees from Capstone’s Worcester-based subcontractor, Simulis Plumbing and Heating, Inc. (Simulis), illegally removed asbestos-containing heating pipes from the cellar of one of the homes.
The AG’s complaint alleges that Capstone allowed Simulis’ employees to illegally cut and remove the pipes, despite having received multiple price quotes from licensed asbestos contractors to properly remove them. According to the AG’s Office, Capstone and Simulis’ employees illegally stripped the discarded pipes of their asbestos insulation and then disposed of the asbestos-containing in the home’s basement and in the backyard.
Charbel Najem allegedly told the property owner that her contract with Capstone covered asbestos abatement. However, the AG’s Office alleges that Mr. Najem later told the property owner that she was responsible for the abatement after letting the subcontractor’s employees conduct the improper and unsafe asbestos work at the property.
At the second home, the AG’s Office contends that the Najems hired a worker to illegally smash and remove asbestos-containing siding on the house to make way for the installation of new windows. The Najems allegedly failed to inform the worker of the presence of asbestos at the site, despite having proof from a professionally conducted survey that the siding contained asbestos.
“State regulations establish specific work practices to protect workers and the public from the risks associated with asbestos exposure,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Significant penalties such as in this case serve to deter other contractors from skirting the regulations and risking the public health.”
Under the terms of today’s settlement, Capstone and the Najems will pay $150,000 in penalties to the state, $25,000 of which may be suspended if they and their employees complete additional asbestos training and submit all asbestos surveys required for their construction and renovation jobs over the next two years to MassDEP. Simulis is responsible for paying $45,000 in penalties to the state, $20,000 of which may be suspended if its employees complete asbestos training.
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 lung 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 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 nearly $2.7 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 Assistant Attorney General Turner Smith and Investigator Marlee Greer of the Attorney General’s Office, with the assistance of Chief Regional Counsel Anne Berlin Blackman and Environmental Analysts Don Heeley and Gregg Levins of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester.