At Soldiers Home, a veteran’s hospice facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the superintendent of 10 years was indicted for overseeing the improper and unsafe removal of asbestos. The 56-year-old superintendent, Paul A. Morin, was indicted by a grand jury, on December 16, 2008, for one count of being in violation of the Clean Air Act. Following an investigation from the Environmental Crimes Strike Force, Morin was discovered to have ordered the demolition of a wall with sledgehammers in October 2007. He was warned before that, in taking the wall down, the asbestos inside would be released and could pose an environmental and health hazard, but Morin ordered the deconstruction of the wall to continue.
The wall was in an area away from patients, but the workers who took down the wall were placed at risk for exposure to asbestos dust. Inhalation of asbestos dust or fibers is a known cause of several diseases, many of which are fatal. Most commonly asbestos exposure will lead to asbestosis, a scarring of the lungs, but it can also develop into one of many forms of lung cancer or mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a nearly always fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs and other bodily cavities, and its only known cause is exposure to asbestos. The wall demolition was a part of larger renovations, which included a project surrounding the air conditioning system. This project was directed by the Division of Capital Asset Management, who ascertained that asbestos abatement was required to continue the work. The asbestos abatement would have cost Soldiers Home $18,000. Morin decided to conduct the renovations without the necessary asbestos abatement. The charges against him stem from the dangers into which he placed the health of his employees who conducted the work. Arraignment for Morin was scheduled for December 30, 2008.