Westborough, MA—The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently sent a stern message to contractors who work with asbestos-containing materials, in levying a fine of over $18,000 against one Massachusetts contracting firm.
The Lawrence-based company, Environmental Source Corp., had removed asbestos siding and shingles from a Westborough home in April 2008. After a complaint was lodged with the DEP, inspectors visiting the site discovered that proper safety precautions had not be taken by the company’s employees.
Asbestos, a fibrous yet flexible and lightweight mineral which is used as an additive to building materials, can release thousands of microscopic fibers into the air, especially when it is disturbed. These fibers are invariably breathed in by anyone at the worksite or in the surrounding environs, leading to painful and usually fatal diseases.
Massachusetts regulations state that any material containing asbestos must be dampened, to prevent the release of its hazardous fibers into the air. Additionally, the materials must be tightly sealed into containers, and the containers then clearly labeled as to their hazardous contents. When removing roofing materials, great care must be taken to ensure that the shingles are lowered carefully to the ground so that they do not break or crumble.
Workers with Environmental Source Corp., however, were throwing the home’s shingles down to the ground, where they landed among other debris. Inspectors found dry, broken pieces of asbestos-containing shingles at the worksite.
Another state regulation requires that any company which will be removing asbestos materials notify DEP of the project within two weeks of its start. Environmental Source Corp. failed to follow this regulation as well, officials say.
The company was fined over $18,000 for its violations. If they maintain a clean record and do not have any further violations in the next year, however, approximately $9,000 of that amount may be forgiven.
Improper handling of the asbestos siding and shingles may have put not only workers with the contracting company at risk for an asbestos-related disease, but also the building’s residents and neighbors.
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of asbestosis and mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive cancer that has had no known survivors. It can also cause pleural disease. Although repeated or prolonged exposure to the carcinogen is more likely to result in illness, many doctors believe that even a single exposure can put a person at risk.