BOSTON (Mass.gov) — A Springfield couple will pay up to $65,000 to resolve allegations of improper removal and handling of asbestos during the renovation of a multi-family building, and for the alleged illegal transport to and disposal of waste at an Agawam industrial building, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
“This is a public health issue. Asbestos removal actions should be conducted only by trained professionals, not unlicensed and unqualified individuals, especially where tenants could be exposed,” AG Healey said.
According to the complaint, filed today with the consent judgment in Suffolk Superior Court, Wei Qiang Ni and his company, NI Management LLC, removed piping covered with asbestos insulation from the basement of a building on Windsor Street in Springfield without giving pre-work notice to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The work was allegedly done without using a licensed asbestos removal contractor, and without following removal procedures required by the asbestos regulations.
During inspection, MassDEP found loose and friable asbestos in the basement of the building where tenants did their laundry and their children played.
“Improper handling of asbestos can expose workers, residents and potentially others to a health hazard and poses an unnecessary environmental risk,” MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg said. “With this settlement, we are ensuring that the property owners’ tenants will be protected and the remainder of the properties safely assessed and abated as necessary.”
Ni allegedly arranged with his wife Mei Nuan Li and her company, Dragon Paradise LLC, for the asbestos waste to be loosely bagged in trash bags and illegally disposed of in a dumpster at an industrial building on Main Street in Agawam. The bags were allegedly covered by additional construction debris that ripped the bags and allowed the exposure of the asbestos-containing material to the open air. The building and dumpster allegedly are used by Ni and NI Management routinely for construction debris disposal.
Under the settlement, the defendants must pay $40,000 in civil penalties to the Commonwealth, $25,000 of which is suspended pending the defendants’ compliance with the terms of the consent judgment
In addition to the industrial property in Agawam, Ni and Li own or have a financial interest in 55 single-family and multi-family residential rental properties in Springfield, Agawam and Holyoke, with a total of approximately 100 rental units. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants must hire a licensed asbestos inspector to evaluate 40 of those properties for asbestos violations. If violations are found, the Commonwealth may require that the remaining properties and any acquired during the next five years also be assessed. After the inspections, the defendants must have a certified asbestos management planner compile a plan for prompt remediation of any asbestos violations.
The regulation of asbestos handling is exceedingly important to protect human health. Airborne friable asbestos taken into the lungs by breathing may over time cause serious lung diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, long-term, non-cancer disease of the lungs for which there is no known effective treatment. Lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure. 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.
This case has been handled by Assistant Attorney General Fred Augenstern of Attorney General Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from various MassDEP personnel, including: Christine Lebel of MassDEP’s Office of General Counsel, Joel Rees, Marc Simpson, Gregory Levins, Robert Shultz, and the late Brian Bordeaux.