Once again, a property owner who was trying to save money and cut corners during asbestos removal is in trouble with the law. A New Bedford, MA landlord hired a contractor to handle renovations of three properties in 2009. However, the contractor was not licensed to manage asbestos removal, and that became very clear when the team pulverized and drilled into asbestos-containing shingles, sending toxic debris into the air.
Now, the Boston-area landlord who manages dozens of properties, must pay $100,000 in civil penalties for those asbestos violations, according to a Sept. 15 article in the Boston Herald. The payment is toward a lawsuit filed in 2012 for violation of the Massachusetts Clean Air Act claiming the landlord failed to follow proper procedures and safety precautions when removing materials containing asbestos in the homes.
“The scattering of asbestos debris in a residential neighborhood presents an unacceptable public health hazard to residents and workers,” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell, according to an Oct. 24, 2012 press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General, when the charge was first made.
“Contractors who do not remove and dispose of asbestos properly will face enforcement and significant penalties.”
Although asbestos is no longer used in the construction of buildings, it is found in houses, schools and other structures built prior to the mid-1980s. Asbestos-containing products were used in roofing materials, floor tiles, caulk, joint compound, ceiling tiles and insulation. When these older buildings are remodeled, renovated or gutted, the asbestos materials are loosened, and the friable material can be released into the air, leading to health hazards.
Asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that there is no safe level of exposure.
The Boston Herald reports the landlord must also hire a consultant to perform an audit of 20 properties selected by the AG’s office and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.