February 18, 2019

Essex firm faces $125K fine in asbestos case

BOSTON — An Essex-based demolition company has been ordered by the state Attorney General’s Office to pay up to $125,000 in civil penalties to resolve allegations of improper handling and disposal of asbestos during the demolition of a building in Worcester.

According to the complaint, filed Thursday with the consent judgment in Suffolk Superior Court, McConnell Enterprises Inc. — a state-licensed asbestos removal contractor that is headquartered on Icehouse Lane in Essex but has its equipment yard in Braintree — uncovered piping wrapped with asbestos insulation during demolition of Worcester’s former Crompton and Knowles building in 2011. The material was left hanging three stories above the ground, putting workers and others in the area at “risk of contact with harmful fibers” for an extended period of time, the AG’s office claims.

A spokesman from McConnell’s Essex office did not return a phone message Friday seeking comment.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley, in a prepared statement, said the case is one she is taking seriously.

“Our office takes the mishandling of asbestos very seriously because of the health effects,” Coakley said. “Companies working with asbestos-containing materials must be held to the highest standards of care as ordered under our state air laws and regulations.”

The complaint further alleges that McConnell also failed to follow proper notification procedures, preventing the state Department of Environmental Protection from conducting appropriate oversight of the company’s asbestos removal activities.

“Licensed asbestos contractors are fully aware of the removal, handling, packaging and storage requirements that must be followed when dealing with asbestos-containing materials and of the requirement to provide notification to MassDEP in advance of this work,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and following the rules is imperative to protect workers as well as the general public and environment. Failure to do so will result in significant penalty exposure, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs.”

The AG’s office alleges that, in order to secure payment under its demolition contract with the city of Worcester, McConnell falsely certified that it had complied with the applicable laws and regulations, violating the Massachusetts False Claims Act. The complaint also alleges various violations of the commonwealth’s air pollution prevention statute, its asbestos regulations, and its solid waste management statute and regulations.

Under the settlement, McConnell must pay $82,500 in civil penalties to the commonwealth and another $42,500 in civil penalties if it fails to conform to waste regulations over the next 18 months, according to a statement from the AG’s office.

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Essex firm faces $125K fine in asbestos case

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