Neighbors at Mercy of Rogue Asbestos Removal
If you live in a home with asbestos siding or other asbestos-containing materials – and you are aware of the presence of those materials – you’re likely to be ultra-diligent when it comes to dealing with those items.
But all it takes is one neighbor skirting the laws or one contractor looking to save some money during renovation or reconstruction to put you and your family in danger.
Such was the case recently in Wilmington, Massachusetts – near the city of Lowell – where a home with asbestos siding was demolished without following the proper protocol, resulting in a neighborhood full of dangerous asbestos dust.
David Norton, who lives down the street from the home in question, told the Lowell Sun newspaper that he fears for his family’s health.
“If you look out my backyard, I’m looking at an excavator and a machine where the house got torn down,” Norton said. “When you tear down half a building and push all the asbestos into the center of the building as you’re tearing it down, all the asbestos just goes up in the air.”
Langone Brothers Landscaping, a local company, received a permit to demolish the house – located in a dense neighborhood – at the end of August and, shortly thereafter, began to tear it down.
Thankfully, the infractions involving the failure to properly address the asbestos siding were reported immediately by concerned neighbors, so the Mass DEP came to the site and halted the demolition the same day it began.
But it was a little too late for the neighbors whose homes sit within a stone’s throw of the demolished house. Almost immediately, they spotted asbestos fibers and dust in their yards and on their lawns.
Langone Brothers obviously hadn’t done their homework or simply didn’t care about following the rules.
“We shut the job down at that point and then required them to come up with a plan to remediate the asbestos that remained in the structure as well as take care of the material from the demolition,” said Ed Coletta, a MassDEP spokesman.
He hopes that the clean-up will begin this week, which is early three weeks after the incident occurred.
In the meantime, town manager Jeff Hull says he takes full responsibility for the situation as it was the town that ordered the demolition of the decaying property.
“I’m not going to make excuses,” he said. “The fact is we directly do not have responsibility for regulation of asbestos. That said, what we should have done is when we became aware that this gentleman was going rogue and demolishing this building, we should have contacted DEP.”
Nonetheless, he admits, it was an illegal act by a contractor, something that happens way too often in similar scenarios around the country.
Hull adds that in Wilmington there is no process in place where contractors are required to provide information regarding asbestos removal.
And though Mass DEP has promised a full clean-up, neighbors are still in a quandary as to how to proceed, now that asbestos has permeated their properties.
David Norton said he simply doesn’t know what to do.
“I maintain a lawn and have a garden and apple trees,” he said. “Can you eat those apples? How long does this stuff stick around?”