Asbestos in Massachusetts

Because of its long and rich history, Massachusetts has an alarming number of long-term asbestos cleanup sites and is ranked eleventh in the United States for mesothelioma and asbestosis fatalities. Shipbuilding and industrial manufacturing are core components of Massachusetts’ economic backbone. Unfortunately, these industries have the highest rates of asbestos exposure, and consequent diagnoses of related diseases.

In 2010, reports surfaced surrounding the rampant asbestos violations in Massachusetts schools, which led to emergency EPA intervention and widespread school closings. According to random audits, an average of 90% of schools were not in compliance with federal asbestos regulations. Lung cancer attorneys remind residents of Massachusetts of the extended latency period of asbestos exposure (between 20 and 50 years) and urge those affected by this hazardous substance to seek legal assistance immediately.

There are an alarming 35 sites on the National Priorities List in Massachusetts; an exhaustive list can be found here. The National Priorities List catalogues sites with known releases or threatened releases of hazardous pollutants, contaminants, or substances. This list is intended to guide the EPA in determining which sites warrant further assessment into risks to human and environmental health, possible remedies, and investigation into potentially responsible parties.

Among the most alarming is the contamination at the Zonolite/W.R. Grace site at 19 Welmeco Way in Easthampton, MA. The site consisted of several properties with asbestos-containing soils including the former W.R. Grace facility and its adjacent properties. The W.R. Grace Company was responsible to remove asbestos contamination located inside the building, and in the surface and subsurface of surrounding soils. EPA provided technical oversight of the work to ensure it was conducted according to health-protective standards. The work included removing asbestos contaminated soils; containment and capping of removed contaminated soils to ensure no ongoing human exposure would result; and cleaning the building with HEPA vacuums and wet wiping techniques.

From 1963 to 1992, Zonolite / W.R. Grace operated an exfoliation plant at the facility in Easthampton, producing attic insulation and Monokote fireproofing materials. W.R. Grace received vermiculite concentrate, containing amphibole asbestos fibers, from the Zonolite mine in Libby Montana. W.R. Grace shipped the vermiculite concentrate by rail to the Easthampton facility. Amphibole asbestos fibers are much more dangerous and fatal than serpentine asbestos, which was most commonly and commercially used in the United States. Amphibole fibers stay lodged in lung tissue for an extended period of time and has an increased toxicity in the human body.

Other notable long-term asbestos sites on the Priorities List include: Atlas Tack Corporation in Fairhaven, Blackburn, Union Privileges in Walpole, and Iron Horse Park in North Billerica.

Military sites are abundant on the National Priorities List, and Massachusetts’s significant role in American military operations puts residents at risk for asbestos exposure.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) regulates all State standards and enforcement regarding asbestos. On their website you can find links to all state and federal information, asbestos projects in your community, and related links. Construction, renovation and demolition projects that will disturb asbestos need to comply with state and federal environmental and safety regulations. The projects listed on the MassDEP site are performed by Division of Occupational Safety licensed contractors.

All asbestos materials must be disposed of in landfills permitted to receive asbestos. Currently there are no such permitted landfills in Massachusetts. If you need to find a landfill that will accept asbestos waste, please call the asbestos staff person in your region for assistance:

Northeast: John MacAuley 617-654-6564 Southeast: Andy Cooney 508-946-2844 Central: Gregg Levins 508-767-2768 Western: Bob Shultz: 413-755-2210

Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have extensive experience working with victims of asbestos exposure and their families in Massachusetts. We understand the devastating and complex effects asbestos-related illnesses have on the lives of those affected. If you suspect any kind of exposure to this harmful mineral or development of a related disease, contact our office today for a free legal consultation