A Leominster-based company that specializes in restoration after fire and water damage will play more than $65,000 and have agreed to better train its employees after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she made an illegal act of asbestos at a Fitchburg elementary school.
A consent ruling in Suffolk Supreme Court settled allegations against SERVPRO that the company violated the Massachusetts Clean Air Act and asbestos regulations when it illegally removed asbestos-containing roof tiles from Crocker Elementary School after a water pipe burst damaged tiles in several classrooms.
The consent ruling requires SERVPRO to pay a civil fine of $67,400 and requires that at least one employee at each job site have completed training to improve their awareness of the risks posed by asbestos and appropriate ways to deal with them.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is used in a variety of building materials, from roofs and floors, to siding and wall panels, to caulking and insulation. If asbestos is improperly handled or maintained, the fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, which can lead to life-threatening diseases, including asbestos, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
The City of Fitchburg, which chartered the company, will also implement a comprehensive plan to ensure that asbestos is properly maintained in all of the city’s schools.
Fitchburg agreed to implement a comprehensive plan that would improve training, notification, monitoring, and maintenance of asbestos in every city school.
“Companies that undertake renovation and construction work—particularly projects in schools—must comply with state and federal asbestos safety laws and regulations,” Healy said in a statement. “This settlement holds the company responsible for its illegal and dangerous actions and includes a plan that will improve public health and safety in the Fitchburg schools.”
After the pipe burst, Healy said SERVPRO failed to realize that the roof tiles contained asbestos, even though school documents revealed the presence of asbestos.
The company broke tiles into pieces and removed them from several classrooms, hallways and stairs without using legally required safety measures, Healy said. The attorney general’s office said the company also dropped some tiles from a second-floor classroom into a trash can, contaminating two floors of the school with asbestos fibres.
The attorney general also said that Fitchburg deserved some of the blame after appointing SERVPRO even though the company was not certified to remove asbestos.
said MaryJude Pigsley, director of the central regional office for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and by failing to follow required work practices, the company is putting students, school staff, workers and the public at risk.”