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Emerson College settles complaint that contractor mishandled asbestos during renovation


 

Emerson College and a Massachusetts construction company will each pay $250,000 to settle a complaint that a demolition project at the Boston school did not follow proper asbestos-containment measures, potentially exposing the public to the dangerous substance.

 

According to the complaint, Emerson bought a 13-story building at 100 Boylston Street in Boston in 2006 and hired Suffolk Construction Company, Inc. the following year to renovate it into a student dormitory for approximately $42 million. Suffolk hired an engineering firm to determine whether the building contained asbestos.

 

The company retained an asbestos consultant, who claimed it could not gain access to all areas of the building for testing. The consultant recommended that further testing for asbestos be done as soon as access could be obtained.

 

According to the complaint, however, both Suffolk and Emerson received the consultant’s report but failed to conduct further testing before demolition and renovation activities started at the building.

 

Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) said in a statement that a full building survey and materials test is required before a building demolition, renovation or re-construction project that may involve asbestos-containing materials.

 

“The information generated by the survey protects against improper removal, handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials,” Kimmell said. “This survey was not done here, and this put at risk workers, tenants, and the general public.”

 

During an inspection after most of the demolition and removal had been completed, MassDEP found asbestos-containing materials throughout the building, including a brand of lightweight wall block insulation called Mac-ite, which had been heavily damaged during renovation. The Mac-ite had been missed during the initial asbestos assessment and had not been identified as an asbestos-containing material.

 

The complaint alleges that because demolition proceeded without proper asbestos containment measures, the demolition materials removed from the building were contaminated with asbestos, subjecting the public to possible exposure. Due to contamination with asbestos, the demolition materials should have been sent to a licensed asbestos landfill, but instead about 80 percent of the material appears to have been sent to recycling facilities where it may also have caused exposure to workers.  

 

Emerson College and Suffolk Construction agreed to settle the case, but both defendants deny all allegations of wrongdoing.

 

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About This Author

 

Brian Wallstin is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Concord, N.H. Brian previously worked at the Missourian from 2003-2009 as a columnist and city editor, and served as an assistant professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Prior to that, he worked as a staff reporter at the Houston Press.