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Property owner indicted for hiring untrained tenants to remove asbestos


A Massachusetts property owner has been accused of paying two tenants to remove asbestos siding from the house they were renting from her.

Susan B. Nissenbaum, of North Grafton, was indicted April 12 on three counts of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act. Nissenbaum allegedly failed to notify state environmental officials of the asbestos-abatement project, as required by law. Nor did she inform the tenants of the dangers associated with asbestos or provide them with protective equipment or training.

She is also accused of improperly storing asbestos-containing materials on her property, potentially putting the tenants and their neighbors at risk.

Exposure to airborne asbestos fibers released by demolition or renovation work can cause mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lining of the lung and abdomen, and other serious respiratory illness.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection requires that the removal of asbestos be performed by a licensed contractor, who must follow standards for removal, storage and disposal of the asbestos.

“MassDEP provides licensed contractors with ample guidance and information, so that compliance with proper removal and disposal concerning asbestos should be standard procedure,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell in a statement. “For those who try to circumvent that process, they not only put the health and safety of workers and nearby residents in jeopardy, but they will most assuredly be looking at elevated enforcement and that could include loss of license, a financial penalty and even criminal charges.”

The investigation began with a tip to MassDEP from a licensed asbestos contractor, which led to a site inspection by state officials inspected in November 2010. They say Nissenbaum knew the property’s siding contained asbestos, but did not inform her tenants how the asbestos should be handled to prevent dangerous fibers from being released into the air.