By Amanda Duncan, President, PartnerOne Environmental

More non-environmental contractors are purchasing Contractors Pollution Liability (CPL) policies than ever before for a variety of reasons. It may be a contractual requirement for specific projects or a more proactive risk management approach by the insured, as coverage is easily accessible and affordable. One particular industry that has shown an increased need and requirement for CPL in recent months is telecommunications/cable contractors, since fiber optic cable line installation is in high demand and telecommunications companies are requiring CPL polices.

We now live in a society dependent on the internet, as many of us reading this article via our smartphones can verify. Technology continues to evolve, leading to massive projects being implemented by telecommunications companies, not only in the United States, but around the world. Cable lines are being installed and upgraded on a daily basis for all market segments–commercial, retail, institutional, residential–the list goes on and on. Installation involves work being performed both outside a facility as well as inside, exposing cable contractors to several potential environmental concerns.

Installation of cable lines outside means dirt and other debris may be moved throughout the process. Unknown contaminants and utility lines could be disturbed during excavation or an abandoned storage tank or drum could be unearthed. If contaminated dirt is moved to another part of a site or offsite, the contractor has now created a new pollution condition. Excavation during cable line installation can also cause silt and stormwater runoff should the jobsite not be properly fenced/walled, or flooding/ponding of water occurs during a rainstorm. Runoff into nearby waterways can harm natural resources, including plants and wildlife, making the runoff a pollutant. Contractors transporting contaminated dirt, heavy equipment, and fuel to and from the jobsite may cause a spill if an accident occurs while on the road.

Additional pollution exposures exist once the installation is conducted indoors. Older facilities may have asbestos in ceiling tiles, lead paint, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in transformers/capacitors or other parts of the building, as well as water damage that has resulted in moldy conditions. Cable contractors may unknowingly come into contact with these contaminants and exacerbate an existing issue. Removal, cleanup, and disposal are also challenges the contractor has to face and resolve. Any time a contractor drills a hole in a wall or ceiling, an expensive surprise could be waiting on the other side. Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) or plumbing systems could be in the way of cable lines which, if not managed properly could result in indoor air quality or water damage issues down the road.

The telecommunications industry will expand for years to come as the demand for faster and stronger internet connection continues to increase. Cable installation contractors face significant environmental exposures from their day-to-day operations at facilities across the country. CPL Liability policies may be required to be awarded a job, but even if the coverage is not mandatory, cable contractors can protect themselves from potential environmental claims very easily and affordably.