Real Estate Firm Indicted for Improper Asbestos Removal
On January 23, the Boston real estate firm, Mayo Group Development LLC, was charged by a Worcester County, Massachusetts grand jury for the purported removal of asbestos in an illegal manner.
The Group, described as a developer and real estate agent/manager, is located at 2101 Washington Street in Boston. According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, in February of 2007 DEP employees observed deconstruction debris being thrown out the window of a 10-story building in downtown Worcester in an area known as Worcester Commons. According to sources, the removal continued even after the DEP issued a cease and desist order.
A subsequent inspection revealed the presence of asbestos-containing materials in a compacted trash pile outside the Worcester Commons site, as well as inside a disposal trailer located on the Mayo Group’s Washington Street premises. Further inspection also showed fragmented asbestos-containing products within the building the Mayo Group was demolishing on Worcester Commons, during the time deconstruction was ongoing.
It was also later revealed that the asbestos from the site was scheduled for disposal at a landfill designated for household waste, rather than a dedicated landfill, according to Jill Butterworth, deputy press secretary to state Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Under both federal and state law, asbestos – which is classed as a hazardous substance – can not be dumped in non-approved landfills. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and OSHA regulations, dumping of asbestos in any form must comply with Rule 902 in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) codebook for asbestos abatement.
Under Section 6 of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) asbestos is rated as a carcinogen. Exposure to airborne asbestos can lead to a number of diseases, including asbestosis, cancer of the pharynx, cancer of the esophagus, stomach cancer, colon cancer, cancer of the rectum, and malignant pleural mesothelioma, a lethal, slow-acting cancer in the mesothelial lining of the lungs. This latter, which often does not present symptoms for up to fifty years, is usually only diagnosed when it is too late to provide treatment and generally kills its victims within 14 months of diagnosis.
The Mayo Group not only failed twice to file notice of asbestos removal with the DEP, but failed twice to institute proper procedures during its removal to prevent particles contaminating the air, and then failed to properly dispose of the asbestos.
The five indictments are the result of an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force (ECSF), an interagency unit that includes prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office, DEP environmental police, and DEP investigators and engineers.
Not only did the Mayo Group fail to follow asbestos abatement and disposal regulations, but it allegedly used its own employees in renovating the 10-story building at 50 Franklin Street, also known as the Bancroft Commons. In addition, the removal occurred while residents were still living in the building, exposing yet another group of individuals to asbestos hazards.
The five counts of the indictment are violations of the Clean Air Act. The Mayo Group will be asked to appear for arraignment in Worcester Superior Court, and will likely be tried by Assistant Attorney General Wendoly Ortiz Langlois. No trial date has been set.
A conviction will do little to protect the residents who continued
to live in Bancroft Commons, though it will establish the basis
for future lawsuits against the Mayo Group as residents exposed
to toxic asbestos fibers contract asbestos-related diseases later
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