The Eagle-Tribune recently reported that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has made the enforcement of state laws restricting asbestos exposure a priority, citing protection of workers, kids and families from associated health dangers. This push is called the Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air initiative.
Her office, in conjunction with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, has collected civil penalties of about $1.7 million since September 2016. The Attorney General has done this through the use of asbestos enforcement cases.
Last month, Healey settled a case with asbestos-abatement company A-Best Abatement Inc. and general contractor Dellbrook Construction, LLC, for $215,000. The state charged them with violations of state clean air laws as well as of asbestos-disposal regulations regulating asbestos handling in construction.
Construction and demolition projects can be particularly hazardous because so many building materials may contain the deadly mineral. For example, asbestos can be found in roofing, tile, glues, insulation, flooring, caulking and more.
The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, concerns work done on two separate construction projects:
· Harbor Place in Haverhill: charges of crushing a pipe containing asbestos and scattering it outside in violation of work safety laws and without notifying the Department of Environmental Protection
· Mass Mills residential renovation in Lowell: charges of removing asbestos from a building without required sealing and proper ventilation, improperly storing asbestos-containing material, called ACM, and demolishing ACM without first checking for asbestos and notifying the state.
The commonwealth is to be commended for its enforcement measures. When workers or other people who are injured by improper exposure to asbestos sue those responsible in civil lawsuits, settlements or verdicts in governmental enforcement actions like these in Massachusetts can be important evidence of negligence or illegal behavior in the private suits.