A fire-and water-damage restoration company has agreed to pay more than $67,000 in civil penalties to settle allegations that it illegally removed asbestos in 2017 from an elementary school in Fitchburg, Mass.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says a consent judgment entered in Suffolk Superior Court resolves allegations that SERVPRO violated the Massachusetts Clean Air Act and its asbestos regulations when it illegally removed asbestos-containing ceiling tiles from the Crocker Elementary School after a water pipe burst over the 2017-18 winter break and damaged the tiles in several classrooms.
The judgment also directs the City of Fitchburg, which hired the company, to carry out a comprehensive plan that ensures asbestos is properly maintained at all city schools.
“Companies that perform renovation and construction work – especially projects in schools – must comply with state and federal asbestos safety laws and regulations,” Healey said. “This settlement holds the company accountable for its illegal and dangerous actions and includes a plan that will improve public health and safety in Fitchburg’s schools.”
In addition to the $67,400 civil penalty, the judgment states that at least one SERVPRO employee on each of its work sites will have completed training to improve awareness of the dangers posed by asbestos and the proper methods of handling it.
The attorney general’s complaint asserted that SERVPRO failed to recognize that the ceiling tiles contained asbestos, even though school documentation, which is required by federal law and was available to SERVPRO for review, stated that the tiles contained asbestos and required special handling.
Instead, during the 2017-18 winter school vacation, the company allegedly broke the tiles into pieces and removed them from several classrooms, hallways, and stairwells without using required safety measures. The company also was accused of dropping some of the tiles out of a second-floor classroom into a dumpster, which contaminated both floors of the school with asbestos fibers.
The complaint also stated that the City of Fitchburg hired SERVPRO even though it should have known that the tiles contained asbestos and that SERVPRO was not certified to remove the asbestos.
Because of the asbestos contamination and required cleanup, the Crocker Elementary had to be closed for the remainder of the 2017-18 school year, and students were moved to nearby schools.