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Boston Universities Incur Major Fines for Asbestos Violations

Two Boston higher education providers, as well as a construction company, have drawn the ire of state environmental officials for violating state statutes governing asbestos exposure. asbestosdanger.jpg

Reports are that Emerson College, Boston University and Suffolk Construction Co. Inc. will have to fork over some $530,000 for violations.

Our Boston mesothelioma lawyers are encouraged that state officials are holding these entities accountable, yet concerned about the potential exposure of college students at these facilities. Exposure to asbestos leads to mesothelioma, though it’s not diagnosed for many until decades after that exposure. Once a person is diagnosed, the disease usually overcomes them in a matter of months or a few years.

The first incident happened last year, when Boston University’s trustees were slapped with a $75,000 fine after spring 2010 renovations to a residence hall, medical building and student union. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said that the university did not submit demolition notifications, and as a result, asbestos-containing materials were removed without enough protections in place. Even when workers apparently discovered the asbestos and began to remove it, they did not properly notify the state DEP.

Despite the hefty fine, the DEP agreed to suspend half of it if the school reported no other asbestos violations in the next 12 months.

They didn’t even last a month.

The DEP later reported that a contractor hired by the school to demolish and renovate two location son campus reportedly removed asbestos material from the school prior to the school filing the proper paperwork with the state.

As a result, the DEP recently announced the school would after all be responsible for the suspended penalties from last year.

Subsequently, Emerson College and its contractor, Suffolk Construction Co. Inc, will be responsible for $250,000 each – or $500,000 total – for its asbestos violations at an old Colonial property the college had purchased, intending to convert it to student housing.

This would have been fine, except that a consultant who was hired to determine whether the building had asbestos determined that all areas of the structure were not accessible, and therefore further testing was necessary as soon as access was enabled.

However, rather than following through with this advise, university officials and the construction company reportedly decided to simply move ahead with the project anyway.

And in fact, there was asbestos present in the building. DEP officials found asbestos-containing materials throughout the entire building, including in a type of wall insulation called Mac-ite. This material was not only missed during the initial assessment, it had been heavily damaged during the renovations, meaning the asbestos was likely released into the air, which is how it is the most dangerous.

The result was that workers, tenants and the public in general was put at risk.

The DEP, in turn, has given both the college and the construction company a $250,000 fine.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in New England, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Boston asbestos violations triggers $500K penalty, Associated Press and Boston Globe

More Blog Entries:
$173 Million Asbestos Repairs Completed in the Capitol, July 1, 2012, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog