When a landowner wants to renovate or demolish a property that is suspected of containing asbestos, as many commercial, residential and industrial buildings in the Greater Boston area do, there is a strict protocol that must be followed. If this protocol is flouted, it can result in work stoppage orders, administrative fines and criminal charges. More importantly, workers and others in the community are placed at risk for exposure to the deadly asbestos fibers.
Greater Boston Area Asbestos Case Settled
According to a recent news article from Mass Live, a land developer in Worcester, Massachusetts was just fined $100,000 and required to hire a contractor to perform an asbestos audit on eight of the company’s projects as terms of a settlement reached with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The settlement ended a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Maura Healey against the company. The complaint alleged the company hired unlicensed workers to remove parts of an old boiler system and pipes that were determined to contain asbestos. As our Boston mesothelioma attorneys can explain, when pipes or heating systems containing asbestos are dismantled, they give off dust that carries the deadly asbestos fibers into the air where they can be ingested by workers not wearing proper protection and ventilators or respirators.
Proper Asbestos Abatement Process
In order to properly handle asbestos materials, the property owner is required to consult with a licensed asbestos abatement professional. The contractors will then take samples and have them sent to a materials testing laboratory for microscopic analysis. This is required even where there is no real question that the debris contains asbestos fibers because they law does not to allow any guessing about asbestos even when the guess is in support of the substance being asbestos.
Once a substance has been tested positive for the presence of asbestos, the landowner must work with a certified asbestos abatement (removal) professional who will work with the local department of health to come up with an asbestos abatement plan and obtain permits. At this point, the contractor can only use certified laborers who are trained in safe asbestos removal techniques and they must be wearing proper asbestos protection clothing and respirators or ventilators. The job site must then be covered with protective sheeting to prevent the fibers from escaping along with other protections such as using industrial vacuums with HEPA filters. There must also be signs posted alerting the public that asbestos abatement is being performed.
In the cases involving the Worcester developers, the Commonwealth alleged the workers were not only not certified, but did not use any of these proper asbestos safety protocols. Once the work was completed, the waste was then alleged to have dumped the asbestos dust in a typically open dumpster behind the buildings. The law requires that all asbestos debris be wet to prevent dust from escaping that contains the deadly fibers. The asbestos waste must then be placed in sealed plastic containers and taken by a certified hazardous waste transporter to an approved hazardous waste processing facility. If it is just placed in an open dumpster dust is thrown everywhere and then continues to come out of the dumpster when it is being hauled to the hauled to a landfill where workers there are being exposed to the deadly fibers.
This developer has a reputation for taken old three deckers common in the Greater Boston area where and fixing them up so they can be sold at a profit. As part of the settlement, many of their other projects will be audited to make sure no asbestos safety violations occurred at these properties.
One of the reasons defendants have been willing to take these risks is because the asbestos fibers do not cause mesothelioma to occur immediately. While the damage is often already done once the fibers are inhaled because doctors have no real way to detect them, and even if they did, there is no way to remove them, the fibers will take between 20 and 50 years to develop into mesothelioma. The average is 40 years. If the landowners are not caught when they are exposing the workers, they are willing to risk a lawsuit 50 years later should that ever happen.
History of Asbestos Use in Boston
One reason asbestos was used for some many years in applications like pipes and boilers is because it is a naturally occurring substance that is very cheap to mine and manufacture into construction products and has the remarkable ability to resist heat, fire, electricity and caustic chemicals. This has been the use for thousands of years, but it was during the industrial revolution in the U.S. and Western Europe that it was used virtually everywhere. Scientists then discovered the mineral is also inert and could be used as a very effective binding agent in applications like cements and glues.
These glues where use in the manufacture of finished goods like tiles and shingles as well as the joint compound in drywall. The obvious issue what that it was highly toxic, but the companies took great steps to keep this information from the general public and even government regulators to the extent they existed at that time. When the general public started to become aware of the dangers of asbestos, the companies sometimes committed outright fraud and marketed their asbestos products as safe alternatives to asbestos. This is the reason for some of the very high damage awards in Boston mesothelioma jury trials including the award of punitive damages which are generally not available in civil cases in Massachusetts.
These are not however, available in every case so it is best for a potential plaintiff and his or her family to speak with an experienced asbestos abatement professional about the facts that pertain to the plaitniff’s actual situation to see what type of damages are possible in the case.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Worcester developer forced to pay $100,000 fine after mishandling asbestos removal, November 22, 2017, By Alban Murtishi, Mass Live
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Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog