WORCESTER – Two Worcester companies will have to pay up to $195,000 to settle allegations of illegal asbestos work during the renovation of a pair of multi-family homes in Worcester.

According to a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, Worcester-based general contractor Capstone General Contracting, Inc. (Capstone), and its owners and managers, Charbel and Christine Najem, violated the state’s clean air law and regulations and the state’s consumer protection law during renovations at the multi-family homes.

Additionaly, the lawsuit also alleges that employees from Capstone’s Worcester-based subcontractor, Simulis Plumbing and Heating, Inc. (Simulis), illegally removed asbestos-containing heating pipes from the cellar of one of the homes.

Healey said, “Illegal asbestos work can pose serious risks to public health. We will take action against those who endanger their workers and the public by improperly handling asbestos during construction and demolition work.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Capstone and the Najems will pay $150,000 in penalties to the state, $25,000 of which may be suspended if they and their employees complete additional asbestos training and submit all asbestos surveys required for their construction and renovation jobs over the next two years to MassDEP. Simulis is responsible for paying $45,000 in penalties to the state, $20,000 of which may be suspended if its employees complete asbestos training.

According to the complaint, Capstone allowed Simulis’ employees to illegally cut and remove the pipes, despite having received multiple price quotes from licensed asbestos contractors to properly remove them.

Capstone and Simulis’ employees illegally stripped the discarded pipes of their asbestos insulation and then disposed of the asbestos-containing in the home’s basement and in the backyard.

Charbel Najem allegedly told the property owner that her contract with Capstone covered asbestos abatement. However, the AG’s Office alleges that Najem later told the property owner that she was responsible for the abatement after letting the subcontractor’s employees conduct the improper and unsafe asbestos work at the property.

At the second home, the AG’s Office contends that the Najems hired a worker to illegally smash and remove asbestos-containing siding on the house to make way for the installation of new windows. The Najems allegedly failed to inform the worker of the presence of asbestos at the site, despite having proof from a professionally conducted survey that the siding contained asbestos.

“State regulations establish specific work practices to protect workers and the public from the risks associated with asbestos exposure,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Significant penalties such as in this case serve to deter other contractors from skirting the regulations and risking the public health.”

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