LAWRENCE — The owner of the former Merrimac Paper Co. mill has been removing machinery, equipment and metals from the complex since buying it for $1 in 2010, disregarding the liens the city has on the property and several orders from the state to stop, state Attorney General Martha Coakley alleges in a request for a court order blocking the salvage operation.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Bonnie MacLeod last week ordered mill owner David Padellaro to stop salvaging pipes, turbines, transformers, metals, pumps and other valuables from the South Canal Street complex until she can hear Coakley’s complaint that the work is releasing cancer-causing asbestos into the air.
MacLeod also blocked Padellaro from demolishing a cluster of three or four mill buildings destroyed in a fire last month until she can hear Coakley’s argument that the demolition, like the salvage operation, must be done according to regulations that would contain the asbestos and other toxins at the 134-year-old mill.
“Mr. Padellaro has willfully ignored MassDEP’s enforcement actions and exposed workers and potentially others to a public safety hazard and an unnecessary environmental risk,” Kenneth Kimmell, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said in a statement he issued with Coakley after Judge MacLeod granted their request for a temporary restraining order stopping the salvage operation. “With this action, we are hopeful that this site, located within an environmental justice community, will finally be safely cleaned up.”
Padellaro’s lawyer, Sal Tabit, said Padellaro is “working right along with the city and DEP” to remediate the property. He said Coakley’s claims are “simply allegations, like any complaint.”
MacLeod stopped work at the former mill until Feb. 24, when she will hear Coakley’s request for an injunction that would further delay the work until a trial can be held on her allegations that Padellaro’s salvaging operation has “put workers and the public at risk” and violated environmental laws, including the state Clean Air Act.