The state’s top prosecutor accused three men and two companies of polluting a neighborhood with asbestos as they tore down an elementary school in Fall River without proper permitting.
A Bristol County grand jury indicted the group on 104 counts, including violations of the Massachusetts Clean Air Act, stemming from the demolition of Healy Elementary School in 2018. The demolition, according to Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office, exposed workers and residents to asbestos, lead, and dust and required federal officials to pay $2 million to safely remove the toxins.
Eric Resendes, 42, of Fall River; his corporation, Spindle City Homes, Inc.; Richard Miranda, Sr., 67, of Assonet; his son, Richard Miranda, Jr., 47, of Acushnet; and his company, Diversified Roofing Systems, Inc. were indicted last week and are scheduled for arraignment in a Bristol County courtroom on Sept. 11, Campbell’s office said.
Prosecutors said Resendes bought the elementary school in 2017 and hired Miranda, Sr. and Miranda, Jr., as demolition contractors “even though neither was a licensed asbestos contractor as required by law.”
Campbell’s office alleged the group “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,” Campbell’s office said in a statement. “Within one mile of the site are over 18,000 residents, five schools, one nursing home, and six daycares.”
Court records accessed Friday afternoon did not list attorneys for Miranda, Sr., Miranda, Jr., Diversified Roofing Systems, Inc., Resendes, or Spindle City Homes, Inc.
Prosecutors said some, but not all, of the asbestos-containing material was removed from the elementary school’s interior during demolition.
Miranda, Jr., applied for a city building permit to demolish the school and “included an inaccurate asbestos abatement report claiming the asbestos had been properly removed,” Campbell’s office said.
“Prior to demolition, however, numerous materials throughout the site still allegedly contained asbestos,” prosecutors said. “Nonetheless, the defendants each failed to hire a licensed asbestos contractor, failed to notify the [MassDEP] of the asbestos removal activity as required by law and failed to follow the safe work practices required under the Clean Air Act.”
MassDEP ordered demolition to halt after it started in 2018 but the defendants “allegedly ignored this order,” Campbell’s office said.
“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,” prosecutors said.