May 15, 2017

SF couple sue PG&E over Marina contamination

Source:, May 12, 2017
By: David R. Baker

A San Francisco couple whose home in the Marina district sits atop the remains of an old Pacific Gas and Electric Co. gas plant have sued the utility, saying contamination from the facility threatens the health of their young children.

In the suit, filed Tuesday, Dalene Bramer and Joseph Gabany also say the contamination has prevented them from expanding the home as planned or using its backyard as a play area for the children.

The couple want PG&E to clean up the site and pay damages, with the amount to be determined in court.

“It’s time for PG&E to own their toxic waste site and do the right thing here,” Bramer said, in a statement released by the couple’s lawyer, Stuart Gross. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

PG&E has spent the past seven years taking soil samples in the Marina, where the company used to run two plants that manufactured a fuel similar to natural gas, using coal and sometimes oil as the raw material. Both plants, built in the late 1800s, were largely destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and were later demolished to make way for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

The utility has found soil tainted with such cancer-causing chemicals as benzene and naphthalene. PG&E has scooped out and replaced contaminated earth from 18 properties in the neighborhood, though it has not done so for Bramer and Gabany’s home. In eight of those cases, the utility took the highly unusual step of buying the homes to get at the tainted dirt. The company then resold two of the homes after finishing its cleanup.

PG&E declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit.

“While we don’t believe these sites pose a health concern, we want to work together with each property owner to address any potential remediation needs specific to their property,” said company spokesman Jeff Smith.

Bramer and Gabany, in their complaint, say they did not know about the former gas plants or the contamination when they bought the house on North Point Street in 2009, the year before PG&E’s testing and cleanup program in the Marina began.

They were planning a family at the time and wanted the home’s sizable backyard — a rarity in San Francisco — as a play space for their future children. The couple now have 4-year-old twins.

According to the complaint, Bramer and Gabany negotiated with PG&E for more than a year on the types of soil tests to be conducted, with the couple insisting that the earth be tested for lead. PG&E initially refused to test for lead, the complaint says. Although lead has been found at other manufactured-gas plant sites, testing and cleanup efforts at these types of plants nationwide usually focus on toxic polyaromatic hydrocarbons instead.

Soil samples from the property were tested for lead, in addition to polyaromatic hydrocarbons, last year. The tests found dangerous levels of both types of contamination, with lead levels 56 times higher than California regulators consider safe, according to the suit. The contamination started less than a foot below the ground’s surface.…

May 15, 2017

Suit blames well contamination on Dominion’s Possum Point ash ponds

Source:, May 14, 2017
By: Robert Zullo

A pair of Dumfries homeowners have filed suits seeking millions in damages from Dominion Energy, claiming heavy metals seeping from coal ash ponds at the Possum Point Power Station contaminated their drinking water wells.

The power station’s coal ash ponds, where the remnants of burnt coal were kept, are the scene of a clash among the utility, residents, and state and local officials over the company’s closure plans.

The lawsuits — filed on behalf of Daniel Marrow and his family and Brian West, both of whom own homes on Possum Point Road near the power station — allege that concentrations of hexavalent chromium, lead, boron, cobalt and other metals found in their wells came from the nearby power plant, which burned coal until 2003.

“The defendant knew or should have known that placing multiple unlined coal ash ponds near a residential community that relied on well water would cause groundwater contamination that would then contaminate the nearby properties and potable wells,” the suits say.

Marrow’s suit claims damages of $6 million while West’s claims $3 million.

The Virginia Beach lawyer who filed both suits, Mark J. Favaloro, referred a reporter to Annapolis, Md., attorney Roy Mason, who could not be reached Friday.

“Dominion is aware that the lawsuit has been filed in Prince William County,” company spokesman Robert Richardson said. “However, the company has not been formally served and does not have any further comment at this time.”


May 12, 2017

Where the lead lurks: Dangerous paint more pervasive in some Portland schools

Source:, May 12, 2017
By: Bethany Barnes

All but the two newest schools within Portland Public Schools contain hundreds of square feet of dangerous lead paint, a neurotoxin that poses a greater threat to children’s health than lead in drinking water.

More than a half-dozen Portland elementary schools have far higher quantities of deteriorated lead paint than is typical across the district’s run-down schools, an analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive has found.

In all, the district has 474,000 square feet of degraded lead paint inside its schools — enough to cover all floors of Powell’s City of Books, which takes up an entire city block, seven times.

Children can unknowingly touch lead dust and ingest it, health experts say. More than 527 handrails at 79 schools have degraded lead paint, the analysis found.

Two elementary schools — James John and Grout — each have been found to have more than 17,000 square feet of dangerously damaged paint inside classrooms, hallways, gyms and other interior spaces where children spend time.

Ten of the schools with the highest concentrations of peeling, chipped or otherwise damaged lead paint serve children as young as kindergartners or preschoolers, who face a greater risk from lead exposure.

Those schools lie in every quadrant of the city, serving neighborhoods of tremendous poverty, substantial wealth and points in between. They include Duniway Elementary; Irvington, King, Sabin and Skyline K-8 schools, the Odyssey and Metropolitan Learning Center magnet programs and the Applegate Head Start center, along with James John and Grout.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reviewed lead inspection reports commissioned by the district over the past nine months at all 85 schools. The district launched those inspections after last summer’s lead in drinking water scandal.…

May 10, 2017

10 Insurance Tips to Help Manage Construction Risk

Source:, May 3, 2017
By: Allen R. Wolff, Dennis J. Artese and Robert M. Horkovich

Construction involves risks that can and should be managed, often by transferring that risk to insurance. The following 10 tips can help in that effort:

  1. Remember that the construction contract is the cornerstone of risk management. The contract documents should set forth the risk allocation plan, including additional insured provisions, indemnity and exculpation clauses.
  2. Builder’s risk insurance might be important. Builder’s risk can be purchased on a broad form policy that is usually not very expensive. It can protect against damage to the project and lost profits resulting from many different perils.
  3. Do not buy insurance coverage unless it is necessary. Use an experienced broker who knows the nature of the work involved and who asks the right questions about the project and the risk being managed. Some insurance is superfluous to certain projects. Ask why each part of insurance is needed for each project. Do not assume anything. Really work on not buying insurance that is not necessary.
  4. Read the policy as soon as you get it. There is no substitute for reading the policy. Do not rely on an insurance certificate. Policyholders (and additional insured parties) always should review the policy promptly upon receipt and reject the policy if its terms do not align with the specifications and indications that were in hand when the insurance was purchased.
  5. Mind your prepositions. At least one court has held that a blanket additional insured endorsement agreeing to provide coverage to an organization “with whom you have agreed to add as an additional insured,” did not extend coverage to a prime contractor of a construction project despite the fact that the policyholder agreed to provide such coverage in its contract with the financier of the project and even issued a certificate of insurance evidencing that such insurance was in place. According to the court, the prime contractor was an entity “for whom” the policyholder had agreed to provide coverage, but that did not meet the “with whom” requirement of the policy.
May 9, 2017

Legionella found in water at Reynoldsburg apartment complex

Source:, May 9, 2017

Five residents at The Seton Square East Complex have been diagnosed with Legionnaire’s Disease in the last year.

The disease is a respiratory illness spread through contaminated mist or vapors.

Water testing confirmed the presence of Legionella in the water, but they’re not sure how it is getting into the supply.

BRC Properties, who run the apartment complex for low-income seniors, told residents they are partnering with the Franklin County Public Health Department to investigate.

On Monday, changes were made to faucets and shower heads in the apartment complex, but residents are still unable to use their water freely.

Residents are forced to shower at other places, like the YMCA, while they wait for the OK to use their water. They are still not sure when that will be.…

May 5, 2017

Building Delivery Methods Defined

Source:, May 3, 2017
By: Rob Beale

With every construction project comes a unique set of challenges, and each owner has certain goals and needs to consider as he or she decides which project delivery method is most appropriate.

W.M. Jordan Company has extensive knowledge and firsthand experience with each of the different construction project delivery methods. We understand each method brings varying roles, risks and contractual responsibilities.

The WMJ team gets a lot of questions about our take on the various approaches, so I would like to discuss the three most recognized construction delivery methods, and what I believe to be the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Design/bid/build is also referred to as a “competitive bid” or “general contracting.” With this method, the owner hires the architect and construction firm separately. The project is designed, and then a general contractor is chosen, usually based on the lowest bid.


Since the designer and contractor both report to the owner, competitive bid projects keep the owner involved with most aspects of the project. On some levels, this can simplify the process, making it easier to monitor, from an owner’s perspective.

The goal of this delivery method is to get the lowest price, so if margins are tight but the schedule is not, the Design/Bid/Build option may be the most optimal delivery method.


Since the progression is very linear, where one phase is completed before another phase begins, the Design/Bid/Build process can often become time-consuming. Project plans must be drafted before the project is released for bid, and the bidding and selection processes add additional time to the project schedule.

Furthermore, the price is not established until after bids are received, and any necessary re-design or re-bidding can further lengthen the schedule. Many would argue that the lowest initial price derived during the hard bidding process does not always equate to the lowest price or the best value by the end of construction. Unforeseen issues can lead to added cost, change orders and schedule extensions.…

May 5, 2017

Silicosis a rare but a potentially harmful disease

Source: The Adair Progress (KY), April 27, 2017
Posted on:

In recent decades, much has been done to improve workplace safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration instituted one such effort by requiring protective equipment to be used in the workplace.

That resolution aimed to limit silica dust inhalation, which can increase workers’ risk for a potentially harmful disease known as silicosis.

A lung disease caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, silicosis mostly affects workers in the mining and glass manufacturing industries. People who work in foundries may also be vulnerable to silicosis. Understanding silicosis and its potential side effects can help workers protect themselves against this diseases that the American Lung Association notes accounts for more than 100 deaths per year in the United States alone.

What is silica?

Silica is a naturally-occurring crystal that is found in most rock beds. During activities such as mining, quarrying, glass manufacturing, and tunneling, silica dust can form. Exposure to that dust can cause scarring of the lungs that can affect a person’s ability to breathe.…

May 5, 2017

EPA arrives in Towaoc for asbestos cleanup

Source:, May 1, 2017
By: Jim Mimiaga

EPA arrives for cleanup job

Asbestos contamination has forced the Towoac Recreation Center to close and triggered an Environment Protection Agency cleanup.

The 30,000-square-foot building in downtown Towaoc was built in 1964. It houses a gymnasium, pool, weight room and recreation department offices.

On Feb. 12, the Ute Mountain Ute tribal council voted to close the rec center to the public after asbestos contamination and vermiculite insulation were discovered during repair of a heat exchanger.

“We realize it is an inconvenience for the community, but it was necessary for public safety,” said Quinton Jacket, of the tribal environmental department.

On April 17, the EPA emergency response team arrived at the request of the tribe and began the cleanup process, which is expected to take several weeks, said EPA on-site coordinator Craig Myers.

A dozen workers wearing air-purifying respirators began cleanup procedures Thursday to carry out the contaminated materials. The building has been sealed off for the cleanup to prevent further contamination.

“The waste will be double-bagged and shipped to a certified disposal cell,” Myers said. “After the hazardous materials are removed, we will conduct aggressive air sampling inside the building to ensure it is safe for the public to reopen.”…

May 5, 2017

Corroded underground fuel tank draws $80,000 fine for Minnesota trucking firm

Source:, May 1, 2017
BY: Josephine Marcotty

Goodhue trucking firm tried to hide its “blatant” actions, state says.

State pollution regulators have issued a major fine against the owner of a Goodhue County trucking and excavating firm for illegally installing an aging, corroded underground fuel storage tank and camouflaging it in an attempt to fool inspectors.

Fitzgerald Excavating and Trucking has agreed to pay $80,000 — one of the largest penalties ever issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) against a small business — and to comply with state laws on the use of fuel storage tanks.

The violation was so brazen that federal and state officials considered filing criminal charges, said Nate Blasing, head of the MPCA’s tank inspection program, but chose to take civil action instead.

“This was very blatant,” Blasing said, adding that three-fourths of tank owners get high marks for complying with state laws. “He went to extraordinary lengths to hide it.”

The case is also significant because it comes at a time when the state is struggling to fund inspections and cleanups from decades of abandoned and leaking underground petroleum tanks, about 31,000 of them across Minnesota. Leaky tanks have become a primary source of groundwater contamination in Minnesota and across the country. They also emit potentially toxic fumes, called vapor intrusion, that can collect inside buildings above them, which regulators now recognize as being far more toxic than was known previously.

In an interview on Monday, business owner Jason Fitzgerald contradicted statements in the legal agreement he signed, which described how he moved the tank to his property. He said the tank was on his property when he bought it in 2007, adding that he doesn’t think he broke any laws. Fitzgerald said he agreed to the settlement “to get it over with.”…

April 25, 2017

Large Claims Becoming More Expensive, Complex & Global: Allianz

Source:, April 25, 2017
By: L.S. Howard

Large liability claims are becoming more expensive, complex and international, with activity increasing outside the United States, according a report published by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS).

“Although recent years have seen a noticeable rise in large environmental liability claims, pharmaceutical and automotive product liability and product defect/recall are the main drivers for large liability claims globally,” said the report, titled “Global Claims Review – Liability in Focus.” (To view other claims trends covered by the report, see links below).

“While we have not necessarily seen an increase in the frequency of large liability claims, those that are filed are typically now more complex and with a higher spend than in the past,” said Larry Crotser, head of AGCS Chief Claims Office, North America.

Indeed, industrial, environmental, product liability and financial lines claims surpassing $1 billion are more commonplace and are no longer confined to the U.S. and Europe, said the report.

AGCS quoted a 2015 study from Aon, which identified 86 corporate liability losses in excess of $1 billion since 1989. “Some 57 of these losses were in excess of $2 billion and 13 over $10 billion, mostly from pollution incidents and regulatory actions.” (The Aon report was titled “Global Insurance Market Opportunities.)…