- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Webster Contractor Settles Allegations of Illegal Asbestos Work at Haverhill Senior Public Housing Complex
BOSTON — A Webster contractor will pay $150,000 to settle allegations that employees illegally handled, stored and transported asbestos while working on a construction project at a Haverhill public housing complex for low-income seniors, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
“Contractors who work with asbestos must carefully comply with our important environmental and safety regulations, especially when they are working in places where vulnerable residents live,” AG Healey said. “Today’s settlement requires this contractor to properly train its employees on how to handle this dangerous material so that they do not risk public health in the future.”
The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, settles a complaint filed by the AG’s Office that alleges WPI Construction, Inc. violated the state’s clean air law and its regulations governing asbestos work by failing to properly handle, transport, and store asbestos-containing material and waste during a roof replacement and painting project at the Kennedy Circle public housing complex. The AG’s Office alleges that WPI’s illegal asbestos work caused air pollution and posed a threat to the health of the seniors who lived at the development and others in the area.
The AG’s complaint alleges that WPI was aware that the buildings contained asbestos when it began the construction project and conducted the work without notifying the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) ahead of time. According to the complaint, WPI employees left asbestos-contaminated debris on the ground around the buildings and sent debris to facilities not equipped to handle asbestos waste. The employees also allegedly transported asbestos-containing waste material from Haverhill to its Webster facility and back in an open-topped trailer without wetting and containing it to prevent emissions. The complaint further alleges employees left an unsecured and open dumpster of dry asbestos waste at the housing complex.
“MassDEP’s asbestos regulations are designed to protect public health and the environment,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “MassDEP continues to take compliance and enforcement of asbestos regulations very seriously and will aggressively enforce these laws and regulations to protect our most vulnerable populations.”
Under the terms of the settlement, WPI will pay $150,000 in penalties to the state. WPI’s owner and any other employee who supervises asbestos abatement will also attend regular training on how to properly handle, contain, and store asbestos.
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.
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 Special Assistant Attorney General Megan Herzog and Assistant Attorney General Lou Dundin of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Senior Regional Counsel Colleen McConnell, Acting Deputy Regional Director of the Bureau of Air and Waste, John MacAuley, and Asbestos Program Environmental Analyst Grady Dante of MassDEP’s Northeastern Regional Office in Wilmington.