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星期三, 9月 14, 2016

NEW BEDFORD LANDLORD TO PAY $100,000 TO SETTLE CLAIMS OF ILLEGAL ASBSETOS WORK

NEW BEDFORD LANDLORD TO PAY $100,000 TO SETTLE CLAIMS OF ILLEGAL ASBSETOS WORK
Settlement Requires Defendant to Conduct Audit of Properties and Remediate Any Damaged Asbestos

            BOSTON — A landlord who owns and operates dozens of properties in New Bedford will pay $100,000 to settle allegations that he allowed contractors to perform illegal asbestos work on four properties he owned or operated in the city, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

            The consent judgment, entered today by Judge Joseph Leighton Jr. in Suffolk Superior Court, settles a lawsuit filed by the AG’s Office in October 2012 against Ronald Oliveira for improper asbestos work on four New Bedford homes he was renovating that risked exposing the public and his workers to the harmful effects of asbestos.

The consent judgment requires Oliveira, individually and as a trustee of the Roso Investment Realty Trust, to hire a consultant to perform an audit of 20 properties selected by the AG’s Office and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to determine whether all asbestos-containing materials onsite are being properly maintained. Oliveira also must ensure future asbestos work on his properties is conducted legally.

            “If asbestos is not handled properly, it can pose serious health risks,” said AG Healey. “We will hold accountable those who put the health of workers and residents at risk by allowing illegal mishandling of asbestos – especially those in environmental justice neighborhoods, which already suffer more than their fair share of environmental risks.”

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been historically used in a wide variety of building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding, wallboards, caulking and insulation. If asbestos is improperly handled or maintained, fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, and may over time cause serious lung diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a seriously 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, and may not show up until many years after asbestos exposure. For these reasons, the regulation of asbestos handling is exceedingly important to protect human health. Working together with MassDEP and DLS, the AG’s Office has a longstanding commitment to vigorous enforcement of these requirements.

            “The asbestos abatement rules are in place to ensure that any demolition or renovation work performed in suspect buildings is handled properly and doesn’t put workers or the public at risk,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “Today’s court settlement requiring the auditing of 20 properties will safeguard the health of those who reside in those buildings.”

“Most people have forgotten about the dangers of asbestos. So we find a lot of building owners who don’t know better or contractors who try to cut corners, and then put themselves, residents and employees at risk,” said Michael Flanagan, chief of safety and health programs for the Department of Labor Standards “DLS is pleased we were able to work with the Attorney General’s Office closely on this case, which highlights the importance of keeping people safe from the dangers of asbestos that still exist.” 

            The complaint alleges that Oliveira contracted for or allowed asbestos work that risked the health and safety of the public and workers at four properties he owned or operated in New Bedford:

·         During the renovation of a triple-decker house on Merrill Street in September 2009, Oliveira’s contractors began cleaning and painting asbestos-containing shingles with a high-pressure power washer, covering themselves, their tools, their vehicles, and the possessions of the home’s residents with asbestos-containing dust and debris. The contractors were not wearing protective equipment.

·         In January 2011, Oliveira hired contractors to renovate a three-family house on Weld Street allegedly without informing them that the siding contained asbestos. Without wearing protective equipment, the contractors cut and broke asbestos siding and demolished a second floor front deck and left the debris in an open dumpster, putting local residents and passerby at risk of asbestos exposure.

·         In March and April 2011, Oliveira arranged for contractors to renovate the exterior of a three-family house on Harmony Street, which was covered in asbestos-containing siding. As a result, the contractors broke the siding and left the debris dry and exposed to the air in the yard around the house, putting the public and workers at risk of asbestos exposure.

·         In July 2013, Oliveira’s contractors broke asbestos-containing ceiling tiles in the basement of a house on Pleasant Street. The contractors allegedly put the public and workers at risk of asbestos exposure after leaving the debris exposed for approximately a month.

Of the $100,000 in civil penalties, $35,000 is suspended pending full compliance with the consent judgment.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Louis Dundin and Peter Downing, of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Daniel d’Hedouville, MassDEP Senior Regional Counsel, and Environmental Engineer Andrew Cooney in the Southeastern Regional Office of MassDEP in Lakeville, as well as from Industrial Safety and Health Inspector Avelina Correia of the Department of Labor Standards Regional Office in New Bedford.