News and Views

April 25, 2018


Source:, April 25, 2018
By: Bethany Klein

When most people think of environmental disasters in the San Francisco Bay Area, they almost certainly think of earthquakes, seeing that there are two major fault lines near San Francisco.

However, even though earthquakes can wreak immeasurable, unpredictable havoc, they are certainly not always to blame for sending people to hospitals.

Gas leaks are.

On Monday, April 23, 2018, a gas leak at a homeless shelter at roughly 11 a.m. Pacific Savings Time caused people to feel severely nauseous. Construction workers had been digging in an alleyway right before the leak started spreading gas vapor throughout the area with.…

April 24, 2018

Two confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ Disease linked to hot tub at Water Oak

Source:, April 21, 2018

Two confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ Disease have been linked to a hot tub at Water Oak.

Water Oak is located off U.S. Hwy. 27/441 in Lady Lake.

The Florida Department of Health in Lake County is conducting an investigation of the two laboratory-confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ Disease traced to the hot tub at the club house at the 55+ community of about 1,100 manufactured homes in Lady Lake.

The Department of Health wants to know if anyone else may have become ill.

Anyone who may have visited the Water Oak clubhouse hot tub since Feb. 1 who may have experienced symptoms or have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease is encouraged to call the Department of Health at (352) 771-5573.

Legionnaires’ Disease can have symptoms like many other forms of pneumonia, so it can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of the disease can include cough, high fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches and headaches. The symptoms usually begin two to 14 days after exposure to bacteria. Most healthy people who contract Legionnaires’ Disease recover from the infection and most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics, according to the Department of Health.

Legionnaires’  Disease is caused by the Legionella bacteria that exists naturally in the environment. It can also be found in man-made water systems such as hot tubs, spas, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems or parts of the air-conditioning systems of large buildings.

Legionnaires’  Disease cannot be spread person to person, according to the Department of Health.

The first recognized cases of Legionnaires’ disease occurred in 1976 in Philadelphia. Among more than 2,000 attendees of an American Legion convention held at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, 182 attendees contracted the disease and 29 of them died.

April 19, 2018

Judge: PPG solely liable for pollution near Ford City

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 18, 2018
Posted on:

PPG Industries Inc. is solely liable for chemicals it has allowed to spill into the Allegheny River over the last several decades, a federal judge ruled.

A six-year-old lawsuit that two environmental groups filed against PPG over chemical emissions at its former Ford City glass facility concluded Friday.

Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania said ongoing pollution at the waste site, off Route 128 in Cadogan and North Buffalo townships, “may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment,” a violation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Mitchell further said PPG’s claim that another business, plumbing ware manufacturer Eljer Inc., was partially to blame for the toxins found in the area didn’t hold water because that business was permitted by the state to produce emissions of a certain kind, and PPG failed to demonstrate the company contributed to the problem.

PPG spokesman Mark Silvey said in a statement that Mitchell’s decision in no way affects the company’s established commitment to working with the state Department of Environmental Protection to clean up their former glass facility.…

April 18, 2018

Architect pays $1.6 million to settle lawsuit over Dayton school flaws

Source:, April 17, 2018
By: Jeremy P. Kelley

Dayton’s school board on Tuesday approved a $1.6 million settlement agreement in favor of the school district and the state, addressing longstanding design problems at Wogaman and Louise Troy schools.

DNK Architects, Inc. will pay $1 million to the school board and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for the Wogaman project and $595,000 for the Louise Troy project, according to the agreement.

DNK was hired to serve as architect and engineer of record for construction of Wogaman in 2002 and Louise Troy in 2005. The schools sit a mile apart in West Dayton, both south of Germantown Street.

By 2013, Dayton Public Schools was seeking contractors to fix roofing and “building envelope” problems at Wogaman, and they ended up completely replacing the roof. The school district sued several contractors over the projects in 2015.

Two other contractors last year agreed to pay $900,000 to settle roof-specific claims. The lawsuit allegations against DNK said that the company’s design documents for Wogaman and Louise Troy contained a combined 2,314 “design errors and omissions” resulting in 319 change orders. In common final settlement language, neither side admitted fault.

The settlement does not specify how Dayton Public Schools and the OFCC will split the settlement proceeds, but a previous settlement was divided 39 percent for DPS and 61 percent for the state, to match each agency’s investment in the project. That breakdown would give DPS just over $600,000 in this case.

April 17, 2018

Sickened Coal Ash Cleanup Workers Seek Justice From Tennessee Valley Authority Contractor

Source:, April 17, 2018
By: Sue Sturgis

At the same time the Trump administration is seeking to roll back regulations designed to protect people and the environment from toxic coal ash, hundreds of workers who cleaned up the nation’s largest-ever coal ash spill and claim it sickened them are still waiting for their day in court.

A team of attorneys has filed lawsuits in federal court on behalf of 53 dead and sick workers against Jacobs Engineering, a Fortune 500 government contractor hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to clean up following the spill of over a billion gallons of coal ash from a holding pond at the federally-owned corporation’s Kingston power plant in eastern Tennessee on Dec. 22, 2008. The spill inundated a nearby residential community and contaminated the Emory and Clinch rivers with coal ash, which is laden with heavy metalsradioactive elements, and other health-damaging contaminants. The disaster also spurred the federal regulations now targeted for rollback.

After the USA Today Network-Tennessee published an investigation into conditions at the cleanup site, more workers came forward with similar stories of lung disease, cancers, and skin conditions. Since then, the attorneys involved in the case filed a new lawsuit in state court on behalf of an additional 180 dead or sick workers.

The federal lawsuit is expected to get underway later this year. It was delayed in part due to a fire at the offices of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the cause of which remains unknown.

While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wanted the cleanup workers to be given protective gear, it met resistance from Jacobs Engineering and The Shaw Group, the Louisiana-based government contractor hired by TVA for technical advice on the project. Workers say the companies downplayed the dangers of coal ash and seemed concerned about alarming the public.

In the end, the EPA signed off on a safety plan that did not require workers to be given protective suits and that made it difficult for them to qualify for a respirator or even a dust mask — and the companies resisted implementing even that.

“Jacobs’ site safety manager, Tom Bock, and TVA site supervisor Gary McDonald both have admitted refusing workers’ requests for respirators and dust masks in violation of the plan’s rules on the approval process,” the USA Today Network-Tennessee reported.

Warnings Were Given

The news network’s reporting on the Kingston cleanup recounted the dangerous working conditions at the spill site, with tornados of coal ash blowing across the landscape and workers eating atop coal ash heaps with only bottled water to clean themselves. However, it did not get all of the facts right. This is how the first story in the series opened:

It was the nation’s largest coal ash spill, and it would bring a stampede of government supervisors, environmental advocates, lawyers, journalists, politicians and contractors to Kingston, Tenn.

But not one of them asked why the hundreds of blue-collar laborers cleaning up the mess weren’t wearing even basic dust masks.

It’s not true that no one visiting the disaster site inquired into the workers’ safety.…

April 16, 2018

New York Court Affirms Gas Company on the Hook for Environmental Cleanup Costs

Source: April 16, 2018
By: Elizabeth Blosfield

The New York Court of Appeals has ruled that KeySpan Gas East Corporation is responsible for costs to clean up environmental contamination caused by manufactured gas plants owned by its predecessor during years when there was no pollution property damage liability insurance coverage available in the market. The court rejected KeySpan’s proposition to instead hold its insurer Century Indemnity Company liable for the cleanup costs.

“Long-tail claims present unique difficulties,” Judge Stein wrote in the New York Court of Appeals opinion document, adding that for long-tail claims, the injury producing harm is gradual, continuous and typically spans multiple insurance policy periods. In this case, the harm involved years when insurance coverage was in place in addition to years when no coverage was purchased.

“In these situations, courts across the country have been tasked with determining the appropriate distribution of liability among various insurers and between the insurers and the policyholder,” Stein wrote.

This case, Keyspan Gas East Corporation v. Munich Reinsurance America, Inc., Century Indemnity Company et al., comes after the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) found long-term, gradual environmental damage at two manufactured gas plants in Rockaway Park and Hempstead owned and operated by KeySpan’s predecessor, Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO), decades after gas production began in the late 1880s and early 1900s. At both sites, the DEC found contaminants, such as tar, had seeped into the ground and leeched into the groundwater.…

April 16, 2018

Future Environmental Regulatory Trends

Source: Great American Insurance Group, Environmental Insider, April 2018

Over the past 10 years, environmental regulation development and implementation have continued to evolve and change. Since the creation of the EPA, about 200 new environmental regulations per year (7) were promulgated. Currently there are about 27,074 pages of environmental regulation in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Of these regulations, roughly 66 percent deal with emissions into the air, regulated by the Clean Air Act and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Currently under the Trump Administration, there is no major regulation push or program under consideration, such as the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act, and the stated aim of the current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is a more balanced approach to environmental management at the EPA. (8)

Administrator Pruitt has stated that his goals for the EPA are “This agency (the EPA) will operate within its statutory limits and with respect to individual states. It makes no sense to continue imposing costly rules and regulations on American businesses and families that do nothing to ensure cleaner air and cleaner water. America can preserve its natural resources while promoting industry growth and job creation. With the involvement of industry, individuals, and environmental experts, EPA regulations can be crafted in a way that protect our natural resources while opening a path for U.S. businesses to prosper, job creation, and economic growth which will enable all Americans access to a livable wage and a clean environment.” (8)

April 16, 2018

A Decade of Evolving Trends

Source: Great American Insurance Group, Environmental Insider, April 2018

Farm tractor spraying crop

Over the past 10 years, there has been increased awareness on environmental regulations. As a result, environmental insurance has become more prevalent for many insureds through transactions, development, contracting etc. As the market for environmental insurance increases, the book for environmental claims has evolved. This article will depict some trends that have been observed by underwriters at Great American over the past decade.

wood frame with vapor barrier


Redevelopment of any property carries inherent risks of identifying some pre-existing unknown pollutant. Although investigation of subsurface conditions prior to site development has become the rule versus the exception, it is still very possible to encounter unknowns during the site development process, and to incur additional costs in management and off-site disposal of materials that are either chemically or geotechnically unsuitable for reuse on or off site. Particularly in older urban areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and Boston, historical fill materials are often present. These materials may contain metals and other contaminants which exceed unrestricted re-use standards. Typical contaminants that may be encountered and result in a claim include “phantom” underground storage tanks, non-native soil and construction debris which has been imported in the past for “fill”, pesticides or herbicides related to prior agricultural use, or construction debris which may require special handling or disposal. As “brownfields” redevelopment has increased, so to have the number of claims associated with the discovery and management of unknown contamination associated with the site work. As a result of claims associated with the off-site disposal of impacted materials, it is more typical in new site pollution policies to incorporate some type of exclusion for the costs associated with managing subsurface materials that may require special handling or disposal.

April 16, 2018

A Decade of Environmental Claims

Source: Great American Insurance Group, Environmental Insider, April 2018

building site development

Site Redevelopment:

A site which had been purchased five years prior and insured under a premises policy was being redeveloped into multi-family residential units. During the development process, soil was being removed from the basement and testing revealed lead and other wastes. Upon further testing, a “hot spot” was identified that required removal and disposal from the build site.

building site development


A general contractor, building a large senior living complex using wood frame construction, experienced frequent rains during the early stages of construction. Unfortunately, this led to delays in the work, allowing the wood frame to be exposed to the weather for extended periods. As a result, water damage and significant mold growth occurred. This appeared to require tearing out all existing work that had been done, causing a delay in construction. Luckily, through the involvement of the insurance carrier, a mold remediation plan was put in place allowing work to continue on schedule.


April 12, 2018


This article discusses the fundamental design difficulties of the fully automated baggage system originally planned for the New Denver Airport, and their implications for airport and airline management. Theory, industrial experience, and the reality at Denver emphasize the difficulty of achieving acceptable standards of performance when novel, complex systems are operating near capacity. United Airlines will thus make the Denver system “work” by drastically reducing its complexity and performance. Automated baggage systems are risky. Airlines and airports considering their use should assess their design cautiously and far in advance, and install complementary, backup systems from the start.

Read here.