Source: http://www.propertycasualty360.com, November 27, 2013
By: Amanda Duncan
Vacancy isn’t the only headache property owners can face: Empty buildings and land can cause pollution-related liability. Learn about possible options to mitigate environmental liabilities through insurance and risk management.
As America’s real estate crisis recovers along with our economy, more than 14 million properties remain vacant or abandoned across the country. Real estate is considered a vacant property when it is not currently occupied or in use. This includes empty lots as well as structures.
Cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Las Vegas are dealing with thousands of undeveloped lots, empty houses and even entire neighborhoods, as well as commercial, retail and industrial properties. This has resulted in an increase in crime and lower property values for surrounding areas. Local communities left to care for these properties by default do not have the time or resources to keep the properties in good condition, thus causing an increase in exposure to risks like vandalism, fire, theft and water damage. In turn, these risks hinder the possibility of resale and revitalization in the future as economic conditions continue to improve, leading to possible setbacks throughout our communities.
Several environmental risks are associated with all types of vacant properties. Older buildings may have existing asbestos insulation and tiles, as well as lead paint and lead piping. All buildings constructed before 1980 have the potential to contain both asbestos-containing materials and lead-based paint. Leaking heating oil tanks, pipes and appliances are prevalent, as well as any chemicals or lubricants stored on premises in garages or sheds.…
Source: Great American Environmental Division, May 2013
During construction of a new office building, an excavation contractor collected several tons of contaminated soil for off-site disposal. Unbeknownst to the driver of one of the dump trucks, the rear dump gate of his truck was ajar allowing soil to spill throughout the trip before being pulled over by the police. Things go from had to worse when it was determined that the soils had been contaminated with PCBs. The soil spillage causes a road closure of several hours and the excavation contractor was held responsible for the emergency hazmat clean-up of the soil.
Source: Zurich, C&DR Briefings, Winter 2013
By: J. Kent Holland, J.D., ConstructionRisk, LLC
Pollution Liability Policies Necessary to Fill the Coverage Gap
This newsletter reviews several court decisions from around the United States that applied the pollution exclusion in contractor’s commercial general liability (CGL) policies to deny coverage for damages that were deemed to arise from pollution – even though the contractors strenuously argued that pollution was not involved. Examples of matters the courts have found to be pollutants include naturally occurring materials such as dust, sand, dirt, gravel, silt, clay and rocks that become “pollutants” when they end up in a place such as groundwater, a stream or the air, where they would not naturally be located. Cases have also found sulfuric gasses released from Chinese drywall, asbestos from scraping ceiling tiles, diesel fumes from contractor’s equipment, carbon monoxide from a faulty heater, non-hazardous construction debris, epoxy fumes and carbon monoxide released from a floor grinding machine all to be “pollutants” and, therefore, excluded from coverage under contractors’ CGL policies.
Many of the decisions discussed herein demonstrate that courts are recognizing the intent of the CGL pollution exclusion to exclude coverage for situations even though the “pollutant” is naturally occurring and is not a substance that was man-made, such as chemical or hazardous wastes. After all these years of pollution exclusions being enforced by courts, it is surprising that so many law suits are filed seeking pollution coverage under policies that contain pollution exclusions. Instead of spending money on attorney’s fees and court cases trying to force environmental pollution damages into standard policy coverage, a more prudent and cost-effective risk management approach would be for contractors and facility operators to purchase pollution insurance coverage, such as an owner’s pollution legal liability (PLL) policy or a contractor’s pollution liability (CPL) policy that is specifically designed to provide pollution coverage.…
Source: XL Group Insurance, Construction Insider
By: Laura Wagner, Vice President Construction Practice
Construction activities pose a variety of environmental risks. Construction equipment and materials brought to the jobsite, including fuels, solvents, adhesives, concrete, paint, pesticides, sealers, thinners, and waterproofing agents, all have the potential for environmental impact if mishandled or stored improperly. Water intrusion and the resulting potential for mold, leaks and spill during routine equipment maintenance and fuel storage also carry potential environmental liabilities.
In addition to the risks posed by equipment and materials, contractors also have to keep up with a variety of changing codes, rules and regulations. Clean Air and Clean Water Act violations with fines in the millions of dollars are making news. Asbestos litigation, legionella outbreaks, public perceptions on hydro-fracturing, lead rules and stormwater runoff are other hot topics that are on the list of contractors’ environmental concerns. Add to that the changing exposures surrounding green buildings and the state DOTs pollution coverage requirements and contractors have a lot to manage.
Given the nature of construction and its interaction with people and the environment, it is no wonder why environmental risk management is high up on a contractor’s list of business concerns. Contractors looking to protect public health, their employees and their profitability, have to be attentive to managing their environmental risks as well as the environmental risks around them that can become their problem if not properly handled.…
Source: http://www.kxxv.com, February 6, 2012
By: Adam Shear
The City of Hewitt is planning to remove traces of asbestos from some of their buildings that they discovered when they began a renovation project.
The city found the traces of the hazardous material in the flooring of two bathrooms in their police department and in ceiling and some of the walls in the community services building. The city believes the asbestos was found due to the age of the buildings.
Texas state laws require that asbestos checks are done prior to any sort of building renovation. The city will remove the asbestos, which will cost them approximately $11,800, before continuing their $200,000 renovation plan of their city facilities.
“We’re taking the approach that we just really want to abate [the asbestos] and just get it out of the facilities,” said Hewitt City Manager Adam Miles. “It’s kind of funny, we anticipated there may be a little bit more in those older facilities and in our police department. Once we sampled it I was kind of surprised there was only a small quantity and I haven’t heard anyone that has come in and had any concerns about it being here.”
According to Miles the asbestos is not harmful to Hewitt employees and the removal process will also not affect their safety or productivity because of the precautionary measures they plan to take.
The city is renovating their buildings because they did not have enough of a budget to build new facilities. The city believes that eventually they will have to build new buildings.…
Source: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com, January 20, 2012
By: Tom Shortell
Northampton County has shut down parts of Gracedale nursing home’s basement after tests revealed too-high levels of asbestos, officials confirmed Thursday.
Northampton County Executive John Stoffa and Director of Administration Tom Harp said a maintenance shop, carpenter shop, break room and a storage room where wheelchair and bed parts are kept tested positive for asbestos. The carcinogen was not airborne in any of the rooms, but all of the areas were sealed off to prevent further contamination.
Asbestos was also found in a key loading bay where food is loaded and stored at the Upper Nazareth Township facility, county Director of Public Works Steve DeSalvo said. The loading bay, which is critical to the building’s operation, is still open. No asbestos was found in the coolers, but more tests are being performed in that part of the building, the officials said.
“We’re trying to make sure we’re covering all of our bases,” Harp said.
Asbestos complaints from county workers have been an ongoing problem for the county. The concerns led Northampton County Controller Steve Barron to contact the Environmental Protection Agency, which started an investigation. While the law library at the Northampton County Courthouse has been closed off because of asbestos, no fines or penalties have been levied against the county to date, Stoffa said.…
Source: http://www.onlinesentinel.com, January 14, 2012
By: Doug Harlow
Company looking for alternative disposal plan for contaminated soil
The C.N. Brown Oil Co. has withdrawn its plans to spread petroleum-contaminated soil on dairy farmland on West Ridge Road.
In an email to several people who have expressed interest in the project, Andrew Flint, an environmental specialist at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said the oil company will be exploring other options for disposal or treatment.
Flint said he was informed of the change in plans by geologist Michael White, a consultant for C.N. Brown, and passed it on to residents.
“Mike tells me they are looking elsewhere for different options. They have several,” Flint said Friday.
White is away this week and could not be reached for comment. A call placed to C.N Brown offices in South Paris was not returned Friday.
The original plan was to spread 3,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil on pasture land owned by James Strout Jr. The soil was to have come from a former C.N. Brown gas station site next to the Athens Elementary School.
Last summer the DEP approved the location as an agricultural “landfarm” operation and one not requiring a state permit or a license.
White told the Cornville Planning Board in August that approval was based on site analysis, including distances of the site from well water or surface water. Some residents and planners objected, saying the proposal is not farming, but an industrial and commercial use of land that would be subject to a town ordinance.
Cornville Planning Board member Sam Jencks said Friday that nothing has been submitted to the board concerning the project since the matter first was raised in August.
Cornville resident Larry Pike said the town has to enact local rules and regulations to prevent such a plan in the future.
“I am glad to see that C.N. Brown withdrew this site,” Pike said. “The next step for the residents of the town of Cornville is to protect the town from further consideration as a waste site.”
He recommended that residents ask selectmen to draft an ordinance banning future waste sites there.
Strout, whose father, James Strout Sr. unsuccessfully proposed a low-level nuclear waste dump at the farm in 1991, said he intended to go ahead with his plans as agricultural, regardless of what the Planning Board said. He said the town ordinance couldn’t stop him.
On Friday, Strout said he hadn’t heard of the change of plans by C.N. Brown, but wasn’t disappointed.
“There was no initial investment for me up front, so it didn’t make much difference whether it got completed or not,” Strout said. “They did some road improvement here, so I’m kind of ahead.”
Flint said in August that the soil is mildly or lightly contaminated from leaking gasoline tanks dating back to the mid-1980s. The contaminated soil remains in the ground at the former gas station, he said.
The plan was to spread a 6-inch layer on approximately five acres of land.
Wet weather in the fall prevented the project from starting.…
Source: http://www.courierpostonline.com, January 9, 2012
By: Eileen Stilwell
The U.S. Department of Environmental Protection has filed a civil lawsuit against a Philadelphia contractor for improperly removing asbestos from a commercial building in Gibbstown.
The suit charges Lovett Contracting of Northeast Philadelphia with removing approximately 3,000 feet of asbestos insulation from above-ground piping and tossing it onto the ground of a commercial building slated for demolition between January and March of 2007.
Lovett failed to notify authorities before the removal, according to the lawsuit, so no inspector was on site at the time.
The company also failed to wet the insulation to reduce air pollution during the process and to store it in leak-proof containers, as required by law.
The suit charges Lovett with failing to even inspect the building for the presence of asbestos before beginning demolition.
These regulations apply to any commercial structure or residential building with more than four dwelling units.
Lovett was unavailable Monday for comment.
General Chemical, LLC, of Parsippany was leasing the building on North Rapauno Avenue at the time.
It hired Wade Salvage Inc. of Atco to decommission and demolish the structure.
Wade hired Lovett to handle the asbestos.
Neither Wade nor General Chemical were named defendants in the suit.
The violations were discovered in a routine inspection by the state in April 2007, according to court papers filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter G. O’Malley.
If found guilty on all six counts, Lovett stands to face penalties of $32,500 per day on each count, plus legal fees incurred by the federal attorney.…
Source: http://www.newbernsj.com, September 27, 2011
By: Drew C. Wilson
A small patch of petroleum-contaminated soil beneath Havelock City Hall will have to be cleaned up for construction of a new building.
A set of six soil borings drilled July 21 where an old underground fuel storage tank was once located detected the spots that had petroleum levels exceeding the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources standards.
Another six borings done Aug. 19 on the west and south side of the building were found to be clean.
The known contaminated area is between 200 and 250 cubic yards of soil.
Dave Harvell, assistant city manager, said the area had a small underground fuel storage tank of 75 to 150 gallons in the 1960s. It was removed in 1970.
“Unfortunately when they removed it, they did not remove the contaminated soil,” Harvell said.
He said some of the contamination could extend underneath the building. It is not known because a boring machine could not get under the building to take further samples.
“As for the contaminated site, the mayor and the Board of Commissioners are fully committed to getting it cleaned up during the process of building the new city hall,” Harvell said.…
Source: http://www.manufacturing.net, September 19, 2011
Cleanup of household appliances, contaminated soil, drums filled with toxic waste and other hazardous materials was completed recently by the US Environmental Protection Agency at an abandoned one-acre residential parcel in Hillsborough, N.H. The cleanup of the Davison Property site at 471 Second NH Turnpike (Route 31) began in January and cost about $763,000.
Hazardous substances, including arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, zinc and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds were found in soil samples taken earlier this year. These substances were being released into the environment through leaching, erosion and runoff, posing a potential public health threat.
The cleanup involved the removal of contaminated soil, construction and demolition debris, electronic equipment and other recyclable materials. It also involved taking numerous soil samples, demolishing unsafe structures such as sheds and chicken coops and restoring the disturbed areas.
In all, EPA removed 145 tons of construction and demolition debris, 437 tons of soils and debris, 40,620 pounds of scrap steel, 80 pounds of household chemicals, a 325-pounds box of lab-packed waste, a drum of pesticide and flammable aerosols, a drum of waste corrosive, 44,136 pounds of CRT monitors and electronic waste as well as mercury-containing light bulbs, two refrigerators, four air conditioners, eight propane tanks, a washing machine and a mercury thermometer and a 55-gallon drum of hazardous blue colored solid that contained high levels of leachable lead.
Shortly after the completion of soil removal, the town funded an asbestos abatement and demolished the residence.
The Davison property included a condemned 200-year-old house, two sheds, remnants of a third shed and a cinderblock building, a former chicken coop, a trailer and many piles of electronic equipment, metal and wood debris as well as numerous containers.
This site was referred to EPA in late May 2010 by the NH Department of Environmental Services following a state inspection earlier that month.…