UMass Realty Fined Over Asbestos Removal At A Hospital

Illustration of legal cases for asbestos and mesothelioma

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has fined UMass Memorial Realty Inc. $15,000 for improper asbestos removal at the former Worcester City Hospital. Right now, only $15,000 needs to be paid out of $45,412.50 “with the remainder suspended for a year as long as they remain in compliance with the regulations,” said MassDEP officials.

MassDEP is in charge of ensuring clean air and water, safe management and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes, timely clean up of sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources. This regulation is vital when it comes to asbestos, as exposure can lead to the deadly cancer mesothelioma.

Back in November of 2013, inspectors discovered violations at the site of the former hospital located at 26 Queen St., where portions of the site were demolished or renovated by UMass Realty. Here they observed improper removal and disposal of the asbestos-laden floor tiles.

“A floor contractor hired by UMass Memorial Realty Inc. removed and improperly disposed of the tiles,” said UMass spokesperson Tony Berry.

“MassDEP inspectors observed the asbestos-containing floor tiles had been improperly removed from the cafeteria and disposed of in an open-topped, roll-off container at the site,” according to the news release. “MassDEP was not notified prior to commencement of the asbestos removal work as required by the regulations. MassDEP required UMass Realty to retain a Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards-licensed asbestos contractor to clean up and decontaminate the cafeteria, the roll-off, and all affected parts of the facility.”

Regulations call for any materials contaminated with asbestos to be removed wet and sealed (while still wet) in leak-tight containers with the correct warning labels. Anywhere that asbestos work might occur has to be sealed off and air filtration equipment used during the abatement process.

These requirements ensure asbestos fibers are not released into the environment so building occupants and the general public isn’t exposed to the hazardous material. This also prevents other parts of the building from becoming contaminated. Plus, ten days notice must be given before beginning any asbestos work so MassDEP can conduct inspections to ensure regulations are being followed.

“Prior to commencing any demolition or renovation activity, property owners must identify asbestos-containing materials so they can be properly removed and handled in accordance with the regulations,” said the Director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office, MaryJude Pigsley, in Worcester.

“As a property owner we agreed to pay $15,000 of the penalty. We are pleased the issue has been resolved. UMass Realty Inc. recognizes and understands how important it is to follow prescribed regulations and guidelines,” said Berry.

“Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and following required work practices is imperative to protect workers, as well as the general public. Failure to do so will result in penalties as well as escalated clean up, decontamination and monitoring costs,” said Pigsley.