Three settle asbestos-removal allegations

Nick Rees May 1, 2010, 1:49pm


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has reached settlement agreements with three companies alleged to have illegally removed, transported and disposed of asbestos-containing industrial ovens.

GKN Sinter Metals, Inc., a Michigan company that formerly operated a smelting business in Worcester, Mass.; Keeney Rigging and Trucking, Inc., a Connecticut transporting company; and Joseph Freedman Co., Inc., a Massachusetts company operating a scrap yard in Springfield, will collectively pay $27,000 in civil penalties for violating the state's clean air and solid waste disposal laws.

"The improper handling of asbestos can result in health problems for the individuals exposed to the dangerous fibers," Coakley said.

"We are committed to enforcing environmental laws to protect our air quality and will vigorously pursue those who endanger workers and the public by failing to control the release of dangerous asbestos fibers."

In the complaint filed against GKN, Keeney and Freedman, Coakley alleged that the companies did not notify MassDEP, as required by law, before beginning removal of three asbestos-containing heat-trapping ovens. The companies are also alleged to have improperly removed ovens from GKN's Worcester smelting facility.

The ovens were then improperly disposed of at Freedman's scrap yard in Worcester in 2008, the complaint alleges.

Additionally, the defendants are alleged to have failed to use required containment methods to ensure that no asbestos would be released into the air and to have illegally disposed of asbestos waste. The law requires air pollution controls methods to be strictly adhered to when performing asbestos abatement work because of the health risks associated with asbestos fibers.

The settlement, filed Thursday in Suffolk Superior Court, also requires the operators of Keney and Freedman to undergo training in the identification of asbestos containing material and to adopt written policies for notifying MassDEP and hiring licensed asbestos contractors if asbestos is determined to be present. If additional illegal asbestos removal work is performed in Massachusetts by the defendants, they are subject to contempt proceedings.

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