News and Views

February 20, 2019

Legionnaires’ disease cases linked to Crookston, MN hotel

Source:, February 18, 2019

Minnesota health officials report investigating four recent cases of Legionnaires’ disease associated with a Crookston area hotel.

Four people who became ill between Jan. 22 and Jan. 27 all reported spending some time at the Crookston Inn and Convention Center prior to their illnesses. None of the ill people were overnight guests at the hotel, but all visited the hotel for various occasions.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) investigators are working with the hotel to determine what the source of the Legionella bacteria may be. At this time, early evidence and past experience suggests the source of the infections is the hotel’s spa.

Hotel management has temporarily closed the spa and pool area to guests. MDH staff are working with hotel staff to clean and decontaminate the spa and pool facility. The hotel is notifying guests for whom they have contact information who were at the hotel between Jan. 14 and Feb. 13 that they may have been exposed to Legionella.…

February 20, 2019

Airport cleanup continues, and is costly

Source:, February 15, 2019
By: George Brennan

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport is bleeding money as the investigation and remediation of contamination continues.

On Thursday, the airport commission authorized a $130,000 contract with Tetra Tech, the environmental firm conducting the investigation and remediation, and were told that $120,000 more will be spent on testing wells and installing carbon-based water filtration systems at homes, at $4,000 per unit, where the pollution has been found at levels above state guidelines.

Airport director Ann Richart told commissioners that the airport does have insurance that covers pollution, and is exploring a claim through its carrier. Airport officials have also discussed the possibility of recouping some of the funds spent on the voluntary investigation through the Federal Aviation Administration, which to this day requires the foam suspected in the toxic plume.

The contaminant in question is per- or polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS). The airport now collects the foam in a holding tank after required testing. Firefighting foam is considered the best way to extinguish fires involving jet fuel.…

February 20, 2019

Baltimore files lawsuit demanding Monsanto pay to clean up PCB chemicals in city waterways

Source:, February 19, 2019
By: Scott Dance

Baltimore is asking a federal judge to force agriculture chemical company Monsanto to pay for cleanup of environmental toxins known as PCBs, following more than a dozen mostly West Coast cities and states that have filed similar lawsuits in recent years.

The lawsuit announced Tuesday doesn’t specify damages, but City Solicitor Andre Davis accused the company and two former divisions it sold off of causing tens of millions of dollars in damages.

The lawsuit says the contamination has caused monetary damages to be determined at trial.

Polychlorinated biphenyls, a type of man-made chemicals used widely in paints, inks, lubricants and electrical equipment until they were banned in 1979, have been linked to cancers and harm to immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems in humans and animals.…

February 19, 2019

Microbial Awareness and Risk Management: GAIG Water Intrusion Management Plan for General Contracting

Source:, Environmental Insider, January 2019
By: Russ Nassof, Esq., RiskNomics LLC

Both the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) shared new requirements for water management programs (WMPs) as a preventive response to the rising issue of Legionnaires’ disease, a serious lung infection caused by the bacterium Legionella. It is imperative to properly protect against this exposure, yet the development and implementation of effective water management programs that meet these requirements can be time consuming and extremely costly. In response, Great American Insurance Group’s Environmental Division and RiskNomics have teamed up to produce a value added water management program for general contractors in order to generate a prompt response in compliance with both the CMS and ASHRAE requirements. This offering provides a time-saving and cost effective solution for insureds subject to these type of standards.

Water damage in ceiling and man inspecting blueprints wihin a wood frame house

February 19, 2019

Trends in the Environmental Industry – Asphalt Plants and Paving Contractors

Source:, Environmental Insider, January 2019
By: Jillian Walsh

With the potential for a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill on the horizon, the demand for asphalt paving projects is expected to increase as the nation’s infrastructure undergoes upgrades, improvements and new construction. Often an increase in workload results in increased potential for accidents and associated environmental liability exposures. Environmental incidents associated with infrastructure projects can lead to extensive cleanup costs, legal expenses, and possible fines incurred from state or federal regulatory agencies. Fortunately, with proper insurance protection, many of these exposures can be mitigated. Great American’s Contracting Services Environmental Liability insurance policy, also known as the CSE form, offers the coverage contractors need to reduce liability and to protect their bottom line.

With more than ten years in the industry, we have the experience and expertise to offer best-in-class programs and service. Our specialized team can help brokers and their clients uncover hidden exposures, which may include…

Risks at the Plant

Asphalt batch plants have considerable pollution exposures, especially if pollutants migrate offsite to nearby properties and sensitive receptors. Asphalt is comprised mainly of aggregate and viscous petroleum. The petroleum can escape from on-site tanks and cause a pollution condition. Improper operation of the asphalt tanks can lead to fatal fires and explosions. These events can release pollutants including toxic fumes. Additionally, facilities with on-site fleet vehicle fueling have increased risk of petroleum release. Even a baseless odor complaint from a neighbor can lead to legal fees and reputation damage. Offsite sudden and accidental exposures can be covered by our CSE form, and our Premises Environmental Liability Insurance (PRE) product can offer more extensive site coverage.…

February 19, 2019

Damages from Natural Gas Pipe Explosion Covered

Source:, September 2015
By: Kent Holland

Where a natural gas pipe exploded due to construction workers disturbing it while working on an excavation project, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the resulting bodily injury and property damage was caused by a “pollution condition,” i.e., the escape of the natural gas, and that the contractor’s pollution liability (CPL) policy was required to pay defense and indemnity costs.

In Acuity v. Chartis Specialty Ins. Co., 861 N.W.2d 533 (Wis. 2015), Acuity Insurance was the commercial general liability (CGL) insurer for the contractor, and Chartis was the CPL insurer. Acuity defended and indemnified the contractor in four lawsuits seeking recovery for bodily injury and property damage caused by the natural gas-fueled explosion and fire. Acuity then sought recovery from Chartis, asserting that the CPL policy provided coverage for the damages because it was caused by a pollution condition.

The trial court found in favor of Acuity against Chartis—concluding that Chartis breached its duties of defense and indemnification. That decision was reversed by an intermediate state court of appeals, holding that the bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD) were “due only to the explosion and fire, not to contacts with the escaped natural gas itself because the gas intrinsically is an ‘irritant’ or ‘contaminant’….” That decision in turn was reversed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the decision that is reported in this article.…

February 19, 2019

No Duty To Defend under CPL Policy for Natural Gas Pipe Explosion

Source, July 2014
By: Kent Holland

A Wisconsin appeals court found that an insurer’s duty to defend under a contractors pollution liability (CPL) policy was not triggered by an explosion caused when a contractor hit a natural gas line. The court explained that the CPL policy only covered property damage and personal injury due to direct contact with a contaminant—such as natural gas—not from an explosion due to the leaked contaminant.

The case was brought by another insurer (Acuity) that provided the same contractor with a commercial general liability (CGL) policy that did cover damage from the explosion. Based on the decision, the CGL insurer could not require the CPL insurer to share in the costs of defense and indemnification. See Acuity v. Chartis Specialty Ins. Co.,353 Wis. 2d 554, 846 N.W.2d 34 (Wis. App. 2014).

The Insurance Dispute

Four consolidated lawsuits were brought by several plaintiffs against a contractor, Dorner, Inc., following an explosion that occurred when Dorner employees hit an underground natural gas line. The ruptured line caused an explosion and fire that destroyed a church, damaged nearby houses, and injured two employees of an electric utility company.

The contractor had a CPL policy issued by Chartis Specialty Insurance and a CGL policy issued by Acuity. Acuity provided defense and indemnification to the contractor, settling the lawsuits for about $1.5 million, plus defense costs of almost $300,000. However, from the outset, Acuity contended that Chartis was required to share in the defense and indemnification costs under its CPL policy. Chartis denied that its policy was triggered, prompting Acuity’s suit in circuit court against Chartis for breach of the policy.

February 14, 2019

Southern Delaware chicken plant spilled up to 1 million gallons of wastewater: State

Source:, February 13, 2019
By: Maddy Lauria

Mountaire Farms has been ordered to clean up to 1 million gallons of partially treated wastewater that spilled into the ground at its chicken plant near Millsboro, state officials said on Wednesday.

The spill was discovered about 5 a.m. on Wednesday and was caused “by mechanical failure of a wastewater system component,” according to a press release issued by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control nearly 12 hours after the release.

State environmental officials said the leak was contained on Mountaire’s property and did not reach nearby Swan Creek.

“DNREC has directed Mountaire Farms to take all appropriate steps to mitigate this release and minimize any adverse impacts to the environment,” DNREC said in the release. Cleanup efforts are underway, as is an investigation by state regulators, according to the agency.…

February 13, 2019

Quake-damaged middle school has faced design questions since it was built in the early 1980s

Source:, February 12, 2019
By: Matt Tunseth

Engineers had serious questions about whether Gruening Middle School could withstand a powerful earthquake from the time the school was built, according to a collection of news stories written about the school’s troubled construction in the early 1980s.

“A major earthquake would produce significant damage and a possible partial collapse,” at the school, California engineering firm Forell/Elsesser Engineers Inc. wrote in a 1983 report to the Anchorage School District.

The firm was commissioned by the district after consultants determined the building — which was supposed to open in the fall of 1983 — was seriously flawed, news stories said. An investigation found errors in the engineering calculations and pointed out that the plans for the school didn’t receive oversight from Anchorage building inspectors, who some Eagle River builders resisted at the time. The district eventually retrofitted the school (which opened to students in 1984), but Forell/Elsesser warned inherent design flaws would likely always be an issue.

“It is not possible to overcome all deficiencies without major and costly reconstruction,” the company wrote.…

February 12, 2019

Lawmakers Want Exelon Held Responsible for Conowingo Cleanup

Source:, February 11, 2019
By: Josh Kurtz

A bipartisan group of Maryland lawmakers wants Exelon Generation Co., LLC held financially responsible for some of the cleanup costs associated with pollution spilling over the Conowingo Dam, which the energy giant owns.

Del. Jay A. Jacobs (R-Upper Shore) has introduced a non-binding resolution stating the view of the General Assembly that Exelon “must pay a portion of the cleanup costs associated with the dam’s federal certification and at least a certain percent of the costs associated with the Susquehanna River’s Watershed Implementation Plan.”

The hydropower dam on the Susquehanna River, about 10 miles north of where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay, is seen as a major source of bay pollution coming upriver from Pennsylvania and New York. Major floods last summer spilled sediment, nutrients and other pollutants into the bay.…