BOSTON – Seven parties who worked on a sewer pipe replacement project in Framingham have agreed to pay $385,000 in penalties to settle allegations that they allowed asbestos-containing soil and waste from the project to be illegally disposed behind a Milford home, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today, March 17.
The parties include five companies working on the Framingham sewer pipe project, the Town of Framingham, and the owner of the Milford disposal site.
According to the complaint, entered along with the consent judgment in Suffolk Superior Court, the contractors on the sewer pipe replacement project allegedly removed asbestos-containing pipe at the Framingham work site illegally and failed to properly inspect, secure and dispose of asbestos-containing waste material and other solid waste at the work site, putting the public at risk of exposure to asbestos.
The complaint also alleges that the parties failed to adequately monitor the work site in order to prevent the violations.
“Asbestos can pose serious health risks if it is not handled and disposed of properly,” said Healey, in a statement. “We expect those trusted with the removal and disposal of this hazardous substance to take the proper precautions required by state laws in order to keep workers, residents and the public safe from the risks of asbestos exposure.”
The Town of Framingham welcomes the conclusion of this matter with the recent entry of the consent judgment by the court, said a statement released this afternoon.
The Town remains disappointed that materials from a Town project could have been disposed of improperly, given the reasonable expectations the Town had in the contractor and engineer we hired to make sure that would not happen, said a statement.
“While the incident was regrettable, I am proud of the way the Town responded, cooperating fully with the Commonwealth and with the other parties involved to comprehensively address the off-site contamination, and the statutory process to address the contamination was a resounding success,” said Town Manager Robert Halpin.
The parties were able to resolve their various legal claims against each other relatively quickly, and the site in Milford was fully remediated with the involvement and approval of MassDEP several years ago, said Halpin.
Peter Sellers, Executive Director of the Framingham Public Works added, “over the past several years, working with the Commonwealth, and conducting our own internal review of our project management and waste management procedures, the Framingham Department of Public Works identified and implemented various practices and expectations for project engineers and contractors, as well as the Town’s own staff, to enhance the proper disposal of waste materials from Town projects going forward. Many of these updated protocols were implemented seamlessly and have been in use over the past several construction seasons, with excellent results as there have been no further incidents of alleged improper disposal despite the number of complex Town construction projects that continue to go forward each year.”
With this resolution of the Commonwealth’s statutory claims against the Town and the other parties in today’s consent judgment, the final step in this successful process has been completed, and all at a minimal cost to the ratepayers of Framingham due to the Town’s strong contractual protections and the Town’s cooperation with the Attorney General’s Office and MassDEP throughout the process, said the Town in a statement.
The Town incurred minimal defense costs, most of them reimbursed, the site remediation costs were primarily paid by the project contractor and engineer, and the Commonwealth has agreed through this consent judgment to impose no monetary penalty at all against the Town provided there are no statutory violations over the next 3 years, a benchmark the Town is confident it will achieve with the rigorous protocols that are already in place. We believe the result reached is a positive one because it fully addresses the contamination and is fair and equitable to the Town and its ratepayers, said the Town of Framingham in a statement.
Town Counsel Chris Petrini said the Town of Framingham was issued a $35,000 penalty by the Commonwealth, which was suspended for three years, provided there are no violations over the next three years.
“Asbestos is a known carcinogen and MassDEP regulations require specific handling, packaging, storage and disposal procedures to protect workers and the general public from exposure,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “As this case demonstrates, failure to follow the prescribed work practices and to ensure that those work practices are followed will result in significant penalties, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs.”
The incident happened in the summer of 2010, but was not discovered until 2011.
The AG’s Office also alleges in its complaint that S.B. General Contracting, Inc., CJM Construction Co., Inc. of Milford, and William F. Rowe, III, the owner of the disposal site behind the Milford home, hid the asbestos-containing waste after MassDEP secured a search warrant to inspect the site.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, S.B. General Contracting, Inc. is prohibited from bidding on public projects for one year.
It also requires the companies that allegedly transported and disposed of the waste illegally – CJM Construction Co., Inc., Ed Brown & Son, Inc. of Westwood, and R. Oliveira Trucking, Inc., of Dighton – to have their drivers take training courses to improve their awareness of the dangers of improperly handling asbestos.
The Town of Framingham has worked cooperatively with the state’s Attorney General’s Office to identify and implement practices to ensure waste on similar municipal projects is properly handled and disposed in the future.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is 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, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs 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 new “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air” Initiative that was announced earlier this month in an effort to better protect the health of children, families, and workers in Massachusetts from health risks posed by asbestos.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Louis Dundin, with the assistance of Chief Regional Counsel Anne Blackman, Asbestos Program Section Chief Gregory Levins and Solid Waste Program staffer Greg Root of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester.