Massachusetts Contractor to Pay for Clean-Up Costs Following Chemical Explosion

March 26, 2020

A Sutton, Mass.-based contractor has agreed to pay $120,000 to reimburse the state for the cost of responding to a 2017 explosion and fire of a backyard shed at a Shrewsbury residential property, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced.

The explosion and fire released hazardous chemicals and fumes, causing workers and a neighbor to develop respiratory problems.

The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, resolves part of a lawsuit the AG’s Office filed in April 2019 against P&M Asphalt Services Inc. and the property’s owners, Edgar Muntz Jr. and 393 Oak Street Realty Trust, a realty trust Muntz owns and manages.

The lawsuit alleged that the defendants violated the state’s hazardous materials laws by demolishing a backyard shed at the property, which was filled with hundreds of containers of dangerous chemicals, including dynamite, mercury, arsenic, chloroform and sodium cyanide.

“These defendants ignored our state’s important environmental protection laws and showed little concern for the health and safety of their workers and nearby neighbors,” Healey said in a press release issued by her office. “Today’s settlement ensures that the public is not stuck paying for the consequences of these illegal actions and should serve as a deterrent to others.”

As alleged in the complaint, the shed burst into flames during the demolition, releasing the hazardous materials into the air and soil. The AG’s Office alleges that, in further violation of state law, none of the defendants reported the explosion or contamination to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), or any other authority.

After a neighbor alerted local authorities, MassDEP, along with other state and local agencies, responded to the scene and took remedial action to secure the site and clean up the hazardous materials.

“The rules for notification and proper handling of hazardous materials are in place to protect public health and the environment,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg in the release. “This case demonstrates the harm that can be caused when these rules are not followed, and MassDEP was pleased to work with the Attorney General’s Office to ensure the Commonwealth was reimbursed for clean-up costs.”

The settlement will go toward reimbursing the state for the cost MassDEP incurred when it assessed, contained, and removed the hazardous material from the property. The AG’s Office is continuing to pursue claims against Muntz and the realty trust in court, seeking reimbursement of MassDEP’s remaining costs, penalties, and injunctive relief.

Source: Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General

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