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Mass AG secures 104 indictments over illegal demolition of former Healy Elementary School in Fall River



Photo courtesy of toddc4176 Wikimapia

FALL RIVER – Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell’s Office has secured 104 indictments against five defendants for allegedly illegally tearing down the former Healy Elementary School, located at 726 Hicks Street in Fall River. The AG’s Office alleges the demolition, which happened in 2018, polluted the air in the neighborhood with asbestos, exposed workers and residents to asbestos, lead and dust over a period of seven months, and required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pay nearly $2 million to safely remove the asbestos.

The AG’s Office alleges that during demolition of the former school, the defendants crushed asbestos and lead into a powdery substance, commingled the contaminants with other debris materials and spread the mixture throughout the site and onto an adjacent public sidewalk and neighboring residential properties. As a result, asbestos fibers became airborne, releasing clouds of dust visible in the surrounding neighborhood. Within one mile of the site are over 18,000 residents, five schools, one nursing home, and six daycares.

The defendants, Eric Resendes, age 42, of Fall River, his corporation, Spindle City Homes, Inc., Richard Miranda, Sr., age 67, of Assonet, his son, Richard Miranda, Jr., age 47, of Acushnet, and his company, Diversified Roofing Systems, Inc., were indicted last week by the Bristol County Grand Jury on 104 counts of violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act. They will be arraigned in Bristol County Superior Court at Fall River on September 11.

The AG’s Office alleges that Resendes, a developer who owns Spindle City Homes, Inc., bought the former Healy Elementary School in 2017. Resendes hired Miranda, Sr., and Miranda, Jr., as demolition contractors, even though neither was a licensed asbestos contractor as required by law. According to the AG’s Office, the defendants then removed some, but not all, of the asbestos-containing material from the Healy School’s interior.

The AG’s Office alleges Miranda, Jr., then applied for a city building permit to demolish the school and included an inaccurate asbestos abatement report claiming the asbestos had been properly removed. Prior to demolition, however, numerous materials throughout the site still allegedly contained asbestos. Nonetheless, the defendants each failed to hire a licensed asbestos contractor, failed to notify the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) of the asbestos removal activity as required by law and failed to follow the safe work practices required under the Clean Air Act.

The AG’s Office alleges that after the defendants commenced demolition in 2018, they were ordered by MassDEP to stop work. The defendants allegedly ignored this order. According to the AG’s Office, the defendants completed demolition of the building and left an uncovered pile of asbestos-containing material on the site as well as asbestos-containing debris on the sidewalks next to the site – causing repeated additional air pollution and posing a potential threat to the surrounding community’s health, safety and well-being. Over the next six months, the defendants allegedly repeatedly ignored or failed to carry out MassDEP’s orders to properly cover and discontinue the removal of asbestos containing matter on the site.

Asbestos is a hazardous material and known human carcinogen regulated under the Clean Air Act. It is used as fire proofing in a wide variety of building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation, and is especially prevalent in older construction. If improperly handled or maintained, asbestos fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, damaging the lungs and causing scarring, malfunction and potentially life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Once disturbed, asbestos fibers can remain airborne, and therefore breathable for up to 72 hours. Because of the serious health risks associated with asbestos, there is no safe level of exposure.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force, an interagency unit that includes prosecutors from the AG’s Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the AG’s Office, and investigators and engineers from MassDEP. The Strike Force is overseen by AG Campbell, MassDEP Commissioner Bonnie Heiple and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper, and investigates and prosecutes crimes that harm the state’s water, air, land or that pose a significant threat to human health, safety, welfare or the environment.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General David Wittenberg and Division Chief David Clayton, both of the AG’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force Division with the assistance of Massachusetts Environmental Police detectives assigned to the AG’s Office, Asbestos Section Chief Colleen Ferguson and Regional Enforcement Coordinator Cynthia Baran of MassDEP’s Southeastern Regional Office, Investigator Stephen Spencer of MassDEP’s Environmental Strike Force, and Industrial Health and Safety Inspector Jeffrey Finnegan of the Department of Labor Standards.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Indictment crazy

    August 31, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    Indictments from 2008 destroyed building? Good luck.

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