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 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 11, 2018

What to expect from the fallout following a catastrophic jobsite incident

Source:, April 2, 2018
By: Kim Slowey

Structural failures and other jobsite disasters can lead to financial and legal problems — as well as damage to the contractor’s reputation.

On many construction projects, there is a risk of a worker being injured or a structural failure while the job is in progress. But for most contractors, those scenarios are more of what-if situations than things they routinely prepare for.

Nonetheless, unexpected tragedies happen, such as the well-reported March 15 pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University in Miami. The investigation of the incident that left six people dead and several injured is on going, and it’s likely that the contractors and designers involved in the project well be impacted by legal, insurance, bonding and financial issues for years to come.

Legal threats

The potential legal threats for a contractor after a structural failure or major accident on a project are multifold, and some of them hinge on what the contractor’s agreements are with the owner, designers and subcontractors.

When contractors enter into a traditional design-bid-build contract, they are typically presented with a set of project documents — blueprints and specifications — and are expected to execute on that design. In the event of a failure, said Quinn Murphy, commercial and construction attorney with Sandberg Phoenix in St. Louis, if the contractor can prove the project was built according to the plans and specifications, then the company might avoid liability if design error is determined to be the cause of the incident.

March 27, 2018

East Hampton Town, companies sued over contaminated wells

Source:, March 26, 2018
By: Vera Chinese

A Wainscott homeowner is suing several chemical manufacturers and East Hampton Town over contamination of private wells near East Hampton Airport.

The town had permitted local fire departments to use the airport for drills using aqueous film-forming foam, which is believed to contain perfluorooctanoic acid and/or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOA and PFOS, according to the suit. The suit also notes that other businesses on nearby town-owned properties, potentially including a carpet cleaning company, could have contributed to the contamination.

It alleges the town acted negligently in allowing businesses to operate on those properties, “while using chemicals manufactured by the other defendants and allowing those chemicals to be released into the water supply.”

The suit, filed on behalf of Westgate Road resident Kim Ellen Shipman and others “similarly situated,” calls for the defendants to pay for medical monitoring, immediate hookup to water filtration systems, connection to a municipal water source and unspecified monetary damages for diminished property values in the affected area.…

March 20, 2018

Survivor of FIU Bridge Collapse Sues Design-Build Firms for Reckless Negligence

Source:, March 19, 2018

Miami Herald

Two days after the last body was removed from a collapsed bridge near FIU, the first civil lawsuit stemming from the tragedy has been filed — and it alleges reckless negligence on the part of the companies that did design and construction.

Marquise Rashaad Hepburn , who lives in Miami-Dade County , was “seriously injured” as he rode his bicycle under the pedestrian bridge spanning Southwest Eighth Street at 109th Avenue , near the main campus of Florida International University , according to a lawsuit filed Monday morning in state Circuit Court in Miami . As the massive, 174-foot concrete slab came crashing down, a car swerved into Hepburn, sending him airborne, according to the suit.

Caught underneath the southern end of the span, Hepburn survived but was hospitalized with undisclosed injuries.

Six people died when the pedestrian bridge collapsed on Thursday afternoon.…

March 19, 2018

3 wastewater treatment plants offline with $1M in damages caused by Harvey

Source:, November 14, 2017
By: Alex Stuckey

More than two months after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area, three wastewater treatment facilities in Harris County remain inoperable with more than $1 million in damages, as officials struggle to find solutions to get them back online.

The heavily damaged Cedar Bayou Park Wastewater Treatment plant – which processes sewage from 180 homes in a small Baytown subdivision – may never be reopened.

“The plant is completely destroyed,” said Jerald Landis, superintendent of municipal services for the Gulf Coast Authority, which operates the plant.

Two other facilities – the wastewater facility in Bear Creek Pioneers Park and the U.S. Eco Park near the San Jacinto River – are expected to remain inoperable for weeks or months before they can resume processing sewage and industrial discharges.

Additionally, there are 14 other wastewater facilities in the state still operating with problems stemming from Harvey as of Nov. 3, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The storm’s destruction on the wastewater facilities caused about 149 million gallons of raw sewage and industrial discharges – including about 300,000 gallons at Cedar Bayou Park – to pour into neighboring communities and waterways, leaving operating officials scrambling to find temporary solutions while they tackled the major problems.…

March 16, 2018

New Jersey settles three MTBE pollution claims

Source:, March 14, 2018

Three petroleum giants have agreed to pay the state of New Jersey $196.5 million to resolve their liability in a pollution case caused by a gasoline additive known as methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), Kallanish Energy reports.

Sunoco has already paid New Jersey $64 million to resolve its liability for MTBE damages.

BP has agreed in a separate settlement to pay $64 million. It has paid $32 million to New Jersey. The deal covers BP America, BP Amoco Chemical, BP Corporation North America, BP Products North America and Atlantic Richfield.

Shell has agreed to pay $68.5 million. That deal covers Equilon Enterprises, Motiva Enterprises, Shell Oil Co., Shell Oil Products and Shell Trading (U.S.) Co.

Notice of the three proposed settlements was previously published in the New Jersey Register, said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, in a statement released Monday.

The settlements were subject to a public comment period and have been approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“These are important legal settlements on behalf of New Jersey citizens, not only in terms of dollars but in terms of sending a message that we are committed to working with the Department of Environmental Protection to protect our state’s natural resources and hold accountable companies that pollute,” Grewal said.

Sunoco, BP and Shell were among nearly 50 petroleum refiners, distributors and sellers of gasoline that were named in a 2007 lawsuit in which New Jersey sued for groundwater pollution from MTBE usage. The state said MTBE was detected in groundwater at sites across the state.

With the new agreements, New Jersey had reached settlements totaling $350 million in the case.…

March 9, 2018

Cleanup officials say Whittaker-Bermite to be cleared by year’s end

Source:, March 9, 2018
By: Perry Smith

The cleanup of close to 1,000 acres of contaminated soil at Whittaker-Bermite is still on track to wrap up by year’s end, with just a dozen isolated pockets needing particular attention, according to the cleanup efforts’ engineers.

“I am very happy to tell you that by the end of the year we will be done,” Hassan Amini, project manager with the cleanup firm GSI Environmental, told the stakeholders and about a dozen citizens.

The Whittaker-Bermite Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force Meeting gave the update at Santa Clarita City Hall this week regarding the 996 acres near the center of Santa Clarita.

One particular area in the center of the  Whittaker-Bermite map was described as the most contaminated spot on the site — Area 14, or as it’s called by workers, “Burn Valley.”

Over more than a half-century, “Burn Valley” became the area where the most harmful chemicals were dumped, officials said.…

March 9, 2018

Home Depot To Pay $28M For Hazardous Waste, Privacy Violations

Source:, March 8, 2018

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and other prosecutors announced today that a judge has ordered Home Depot USA to pay $27.84 million for unlawfully disposing hazardous wastes.

The settlement, which was ordered by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman, also resolves allegations that Home Depot, which is based in Atlanta, discarded records without rendering private customer information unreadable.

“Today’s settlement marks a victory for both environmental and consumer protection throughout California,” O’Malley said in a statement.

California Gov. Jerry Brown denounced U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for coming to the state to speak about a lawsuit targeting policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, saying Wednesday it was unprecedented for him to “act more like Fox News than a law enforcement officer.” Shortly after Sessions spoke Wednesday morning in Sacramento to law enforcement officials at a conference, Brown accused Sessions of lying and trying to appease President Donald Trump. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is up for election in November, said sanctuary policies increase public safety by promoting trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement, while allowing police resources to be used to fight other crimes. “We’re in the business of public safety, not deportation,” he said.

“My office works tirelessly to investigate and prosecute companies large and small that endanger our precious resources by illegally disposing of hazardous waste. We also strive to ensure that consumers’ privacy and security is maintained and protected,” O’Malley said.