Boston, MA (WorkersCompensation.com) - The building owner of a Town Fair Tire store in Springfield has been sued for its role in the illegal removal and disposal of asbestos-containing insulation during the store expansion, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The lawsuit filed April 9 in Suffolk Superior Court alleges that the building owner, Haymarket Square Associates Limited Partnership (Haymarket Square Associates), violated the state's clean air and solid waste management laws by having asbestos-containing insulation removed and disposed of during demolition and renovation work done as part of the expansion of the Town Fair Tire store in the Haymarket Square shopping center on Boston Road in Springfield. The AG's Office alleges that the building owner had the asbestos illegally removed without taking the precautions required by law to protect workers and the public from exposures to dangerous asbestos fibers.
“Companies who work with asbestos containing material must do so in a safe and legal way,” AG Healey said. “Our state laws are in place to protect the public and workers from the serious health risks associated with exposure to this dangerous material.”
“Haymarket Square Associates has failed to take responsibility for these serious violations,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Given the potential health and environmental risks, we will continue to pursue all instances where there is illegal removal of friable asbestos materials.”
The AG's complaint alleges that during the 2016 expansion of the Town Fair Tire store in Springfield, workers dismantled and removed equipment that included asbestos insulation from property adjacent to the store that had been occupied by a dry-cleaning business and illegally dumped the asbestos in a pile on the service road behind the store. The workers that did the asbestos removal allegedly failed to follow a host of work practices required to ensure that the renovation work involving asbestos containing material was done in a safe and legal manner, including failing to wet the asbestos-containing insulation during the demolition and failing to seal the asbestos in leak-tight containers with required hazard warnings to prevent exposures to the asbestos waste. According to the complaint, the asbestos waste exposed workers and the public to dangerous asbestos fibers for approximately two months before a licensed contractor was hired to lawfully remove and dispose of the material.
The AG's Office is seeking civil penalties and for the Court to order the landlord to refrain from participating in or otherwise allowing any demolition or renovation work in the future that includes the handling, storage, or disposal of asbestos-containing material unless Haymarket Square Associates hires a licensed contractor to do the job.
This lawsuit follows an $81,000 settlement the AG's Office reached with Town Fair Tire in August 2018 for its role in conducting the illegal asbestos abatement work associated with the store's expansion in Springfield.
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 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 more than $2.8 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 matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg, of AG Healey's Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from MassDEP Environmental Analyst John Moriarty and Chief Regional Counsel Christine LeBel, both from MassDEP's Western Regional Office.