For the improper handling of toxic material resulting in asbestos danger in Massachusetts, four affiliated firms agreed to pay $129,000 in fines. However, half of that cost will be deferred if the affiliates can manage to avoid any further environmental trouble, according to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
The settlement stems from a Suffolk Superior Court case filed in July 2014 against Patriots Environmental, an Oxford-based firm with affiliates there and also in Charlton and Worcester.
According to the government’s allegations, Patriots Environmental flouted safety regulations and proper procedures in the removal of asbestos from a residential home in Sturbridge. This is the kind of thing that exposes workers, homeowners, guests and even members of the general public to an unnecessary risk of a potentially fatal disease. Asbestosis and mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos particles in the air, and it is well-established that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos had literally thousands of applications for construction throughout the 20th Century, so it’s not uncommon to find it all over the place – including in many homes. Usually, if left intact and undisturbed, it’s not a major problem. However, anytime there is demolition or renovation of a property that contains asbestos, workers have to be extra careful when handling the material to avoid dangerous asbestos exposure or contamination. That usually means wetting it down and properly bagging it prior to disposal, which also has to be conducted according to very specific EPA rules.
This company, in addition to improperly removing the asbestos failed to pay a $55,000 penalty assessed by the MassDEP for asbestos and hazardous waste violations, according to the government. It was also alleged the firm didn’t acquire the proper permits or pay fees for approximately 24 jobs between late 2012 and late 2013.
Patriots Environmental owned three other companies – Patriots Realty LLC in Worcester, CRB Demolition Corp. in Charlton and Demo Realty in Oxford. When the Massachusetts attorney general’s office first filed its lawsuit against Patriots, those companies weren’t included. However, they were later added because it was asserted those firms shared money, workers, ownership and asbestos/ demolition work with the other firms. Also, they too were responsible for asbestos violations, prosecutors alleged.
The complaint asserted that Patriots Environmental was hired to remove shingles from outside walls of an exterior home. Those shingles contained asbestos. But during the course of that project, workers from Demo reportedly caused the shingles to break apart. This was caused by dropping the asbestos-laden debris straight onto the ground and also into plastic bags that were unsealed. This caused the asbestos dust to be released into the air.
None of the workers took care to wet, cover or seal the material to make sure the fibers weren’t haphazardly sent into the air.
The complaint also alleges this same kind of carelessness was seen by these companies during the demolition of the Somerset Berkley Regional High School. Piles of asbestos-containing rubble littered the grounds during that project, prosecutors said.
While half of the government’s civil penalty will be suspended, it could be reimposed if the firms do not keep up with the court-ordered payment schedule or if they have any additional asbestos violations on future jobs.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Oxford company Patriots Environmental to pay $65,0000 fine for improper handling of asbestos, March 31, 2016, By Michael D. Kane, MassLive.com
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