Last month, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) levied a $41,235 fine against a Natick real estate broker for improper asbestos removal from a Worcester home built in 2009. The fine came after the broker improperly hired the home’s general contractor, who lacked the requisite license, to remove asbestos insulation. DEP inspectors discovered that the asbestos had not been properly removed, handled, packaged, or labeled after visiting the home and the storage facility where the asbestos was transferred in Upton, Massachusetts. In addition to the hefty fine, the agency required the broker to hire a licensed asbestos contractor to remove additional asbestos from the home’s basement and to decontaminate the storage facility.
Massachusetts workers, tenants, and the general population are protected by a plethora of Federal and Massachusetts safety regulations to minimize the risks of asbestos exposure. Often, these regulations require following specific and detailed protocols. Martin Suuberg, director of the DEP’s regional office in Worcester, told the Metro Daily West that “contractors and operators involved with building renovation work must be fully aware of their responsibilities.” He went on to note that “as this case illustrates, noncompliance with the asbestos regulations will result in significant penalty exposure.”
Asbestos removal is highly regulated under Federal and Massachusetts state laws. If asbestos is in good condition and does not pose an imminent health risk, there are no laws that explicitly require its removal. However, homeowners and contractors are required to keep asbestos in good repair to prevent releases of visible or particulate asbestos emissions. If a renovation or repair activity could potentially cause damage to asbestos material, laws require that the asbestos be removed prior to the activity. A state-certified asbestos consultant should be hired to determine if asbestos is present and whether removal is necessary. Only licensed asbestos contractors and consultants may be hired to perform asbestos-related work in Massachusetts.