January 30, 2013

Got Mold?

Source: XL Group Insurance, Construction Insider, January 2013
By: Kimberly MacDonald & Marlin Zechman

Chances are everyone reading this article has observed or experienced mold in some form or another. Whether it was a damp, dark basement where you could smell the musty odor or your college dorm bathroom where cleaning was not at the top of your priority list, you knew it by sight and smell. There are upwards of 300,000 species of mold and mold spores that can be found everywhere. In fact, you breathe them in every day with little or no affect.

Mold has plagued society for thousands of years. The Book of Leviticus describes the first known mold remediation program where it states that mold should be cleaned from stones of a house and that if the mold returns, the house should be demolished and taken to a dump site. Today, the total demolition of a house as a mold remediation remedy would be considered extreme, but it would certainly solve
the problem.

Mold serves a purpose in nature by aiding in the breakdown of dead material and recycling nutrients back into the environment. However, throughout history, mold has made its mark on the human race. One example is the great potato famine of Ireland in the mid-1800’s, which was a result of a fungus called Late Blight that destroyed the potato crop and led to over 1 million starvation deaths. But not all molds should be feared. For example, mold is how blue cheese gets its characteristic marbling and taste. And the wonder drug Penicillin is derived from the Penicillium fungi, a common bread mold.

Mold rapidly propagates with three key ingredients: moisture, temperature and a food source. That food source is anything organic, such as drywall, carpeting or wood framing materials. As a result, there have been significant (in volume and severity) construction related insurance claims, involving commercial and residential buildings, hospitals, schools, long term care facilities and myriad other similar sites where people work or live. Abatement of mold infested building materials is costly, as care must be taken to protect workers, habitants and property from direct contact or tangential damage. There is no question that the cost to the insurance industry to remediate property damage stemming from mold infestation is staggering.…

January 14, 2013

Thai villagers win lead pollution court battle

Source: AFP World News, January 10, 2013
Posted on:

Ethnic minority villagers at the centre of a nine-year legal dispute over lead pollution from a mine in western Thailand won their fight for increased compensation on Thursday.

Thailand’s Supreme Administrative Court ordered the government to pay 3.9 million baht ($128,000) shared between 22 plaintiffs from a Karen community living near the Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi province.

It said the government’s Department of Pollution Control had failed to prepare a contingency plan in case of a leak, while efforts to tackle the problem only made it worse.

Both sides had appealed a lower court decision in 2008 to award a total of 783,226 baht in compensation to the plaintiffs for the contamination from a mine operated by Lead Concentrate Ltd. until its closure in 1998.

Village chief Yasae Nasuansuwan said his community — home to 400 people — had suffered from lead pollution since 1975.

“We have had health problems such as stomach ache while many women feel tense because they no longer use water from the creek for their daily activities,” he told AFP after the ruling.

“About six to seven people died when high levels of lead were found in the creek, but I don’t know if they all died from the lead because we didn’t go to see a doctor,” he said.

The court ordered the government regularly to test the contamination levels, but villagers expressed disappointment that it did not set a timetable to clean up the creek.

Activist Surapong Kongchantuk, director of the Karen Studies and Development Center, welcomed the ruling as “the beginning of standards in environmental cases” in the kingdom.


October 25, 2012

C8 Exposure Leads to Lawsuits in WV

Read here about 3 lawsuits filed in West Virginia over C8 exposure.


October 12, 2012

New Mexico Supreme Court finds “sudden and accidental” exception to pollution exclusion allows coverage of gradual but unexpected and unintended releases

Source:, October 4, 2012
By: Orrick Herrington & Sutcliff LLP

In United Nuclear Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co., Docket No. 32,939 (N.M. S. Ct., Aug. 23, 2012), New Mexico’s highest court concluded that the “sudden and accidental” exception to the qualified pollution exclusion provides coverage for “unexpected and unintended” releases of pollutants, and does not require that the releases be temporally abrupt. General and excess liability policies issued from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s usually contained this exclusion. The case involved alleged releases of contaminants at tailings impoundments at several uranium mines. Allstate asserted that coverage of the releases was excluded because they were not temporally abrupt. Reversing an intermediate appellate court decision, the court found the term “sudden” ambiguous, in that it could include either abrupt or unexpected releases. The court cited multiple dictionary definitions and the divergence of opinions among other courts as a basis for its opinion that the term was ambiguous. Then the court considered the drafting history of the exclusion as a basis for assessing insurance industry intent. The court concluded that “sudden” should be given the non-temporal interpretation favoring coverage.…

July 13, 2012

IA Residents Seek To Regulate Livestock Emissions

Read here about a group of residents in Iowa who seek to have the EPA regulate emissions from livestock operations.…

January 3, 2012

Businessman unknowingly bid on local toxic waste site

Source: The Evening Sun (Hanover, PA), January 2, 2012
Posted on:

A Harrisburg businessman says he didn’t quite know what he was bidding on when he offered to buy a plot of marshland where 5,000 tons of toxic waste was dumped in the 1990s.

James Halkias didn’t know an additional 676 drums of metallic sludge had been dumped there. And he didn’t know the 63-acre property was involved in what’s been called the worst case of deliberate pollution ever prosecuted in Pennsylvania.

“I actually drove over there and it smelled really bad. I didn’t know what it was,” he said. “It just didn’t smell right to me.”

Halkias offered $1,600 for the former Gettysburg Foundry property, but his bid was turned down by Cumberland Township. When told the history of the property he was confused, surprised and then relieved.

“I’m glad it didn’t go through. I don’t want to get stuck with a nightmare,” he said.

Apart from Halkias, nobody has shown interest in the property in two years, even after all the liens and back taxes were wiped clean months ago.

The lack of bids isn’t surprising, especially considering toxic material was found in high enough concentrations to harm plants and animals, according to a state Department of Environmental Protection report.

Whoever buys the property must permit state officials to continue testing four on-site wells. And the contamination levels are too high to build apartments of offices.

While most developers wouldn’t consider buying such a property, Halkias buys up defunct properties, cuts down the trees and sells the timber.

“I thought there was a deadline so I put in bids quickly,” he said. “I wasn’t really knowing what I was bidding on.”

Adams County officials are eager to sell the property and get it back on the tax rolls. But $1,600 just wasn’t enough for the township supervisors, considering the Emmitsburg Road parcel is assessed at $1.48 million.

In 1999, the father and son who ran the foundry were fined and received prison sentences for crimes associated with polluting the air, wetlands and groundwater.

At the foundry, scraps of aluminum metal were melted down in a process that left a waste material called “dross,” which is high in sodium and reactive with water.

The salt was found in such concentrations that local fire companies said they would no longer respond to fires there. The decision came after firefighters attempting to quell a blaze caused multiple explosions when water ignited tomato-paste-sized canisters of pure sodium.

The grounds required $5.2 million in restitution by the state EPA, which was supposed to be paid by the former owners Creed and Robert White. But the pair filed for bankruptcy and the property was sold for $1 to C.M. Metals under the agreement the new owners would pay the cleanup costs.

But C.M. Metals never fulfilled the obligation, causing the entire cleanup process to fall to the state. In the end, the Department of Environmental Protection spent eight years and millions of dollars restoring the grounds.…

December 27, 2011

TN Property Owners Await Judges Decision

Read here about some Tennessee property owners who are waiting on a judge’s decision 3 years after a sludge spill.…

December 12, 2011

Contaminated Well Water in TN

Read here about a contaminated well water lawsuit settlement that has been reached in Dickson, Tennessee.…

October 6, 2011

WV Co. Agrees to Pollution Lawsuit Settlement

Read here about a West Virginia company that has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a 2010 pollution lawsuit.…

October 6, 2011

Clean Air Act Violations Lead to Fine for PA Company

Read here about a Pennsylvania company that has agreed to a substantial fine for Clean Air Act Violations.…