Developing and renovating properties could result in costly and dangerous pollution issues

By Ean Peyton, Underwriting Assistant

It is difficult to drive to work, the store, or even just cruise around town without spotting a construction project in progress. From single family homes and apartment development to commercial buildings and road expansion, the construction industry continues to flourish However, the potential hazards surrounding these projects can pose problems to the environment and affect wildlife and humans alike. It is important to note these potential hazards so that they can be mitigated before leading to potential risks. According to IRMI (The International Risk Management Institute, Inc), there are many potential hazards that can result in costly clean-ups and liabilities due to operational, owned site, transportation, and disposal exposures from construction jobsites.

 

Operational Exposures

This category of exposure is typically the most commonly thought of and detected during construction projects. These risks can include many different things, including the disturbance of asbestos, mold or lead found in contaminated building materials during renovation of existing buildings. Mismanagement of the work area can also release pollutants into the air and soil, creating a threat to human life as well as the flora and fauna in the area. Cement, concrete and even wood dust can travel for long periods of time depositing the debris on not just the work site. Diesel fuel and oil from construction equipment can release air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and other toxic gases into the air and also leech into the soil if exposed to the area causing the topsoil and water table to become contaminated. Soil that was polluted prior to the construction project can also pose a large problem, as exposure or disturbance of such material can create health concerns for construction workers and 3rd parties occupying neighboring properties. Stirring up contaminants can cause them to be easily transported by surface water and even by construction equipment. According to the EPA, failure to implement erosion & sediment controls may result in the discharge of pollutants or topsoil in stormwater runoff.  Pollution emissions can also be linked to leakages from construction equipment, spillage of fuels/oils, cleaners and other fluids from trucks in the construction zone.

 

Site Exposures

Site exposures can be just as costly to construction companies as any of the other listed exposures. Most companies own locations where equipment, jobsite materials, and chemicals are stored.  Proper maintenance is just as important at these properties as it is at project locations. Inappropriate disposal of project and warehouse waste at the company location can create pollution-related complications both on- and off-site. According to the EPA, the leaching of chemicals into groundwater, transport of heavy metals into nearby creeks and streams, and potential human health risks are all examples of potential losses related to improper waste disposal. The inadequate containment of chemicals and hazardous substances could also cause surface contamination. This, coupled with residual contamination that equipment and vehicles can leave in common storage areas, can also pose environmental concerns on- and off-site.

 

Transportation Exposures

Many mishaps can occur during the transport of construction materials and waste. Spillage of fluids and substances (such as cleaners, cement, oils, etc.) can be a cause for concern. How many times have you seen large paint splatters on the road from a loose, runaway can that fell from a work truck? Other fluids and potentially hazardous substances are no different. The transfer of contaminated soils can also quite possibly generate pollution conditions. There is the potential issue of this contaminated soil being released during transportation, which can cause major issues if spilled onto farmland or into areas where it can be washed into streams and creeks, as reported by the EPA and IRMI. Collision with objects and/or containers from which pollutants could be emitted can also create losses. If a collision occurs with such an object (for example, an aboveground storage tank or another vehicle transporting waste), it is very likely a pollution cleanup will be required.

 

Waste Exposures

There are always potential concerns with waste removal and disposal. The transportation of the waste may rid the project of the scrap and debris, but the potential hazard of this waste is also introduced to the waste site. As stated earlier, the inadvertent transport of contaminated soil (along with other contaminated waste such as building materials, chemicals, etc.) can cause major issues in the areas in which it is being disposed. If these contaminated or hazardous materials aren’t disposed of properly, then they can lead to pollution in the area. Under environmental regulations such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), parties found to be responsible for contaminating disposal sites may be liable. Ideally, waste should be sorted and disposed of in the correct areas and according to regulatory standards. While this is the general rule, mistakes are made and accidents can and do happen.

 

Construction continues to power forward in today’s industrial society. PartnerOne Environmental offers many options and products for environmental and non-environmental contractors, such as Contractors Pollution Liability, Contractors Pollution Liability/Professional, Site Pollution Liability, and more. If you would like more information on construction pollution exposures and the coverages your client may require, please feel free to contact us.


Information for this article was obtained from the following sources:

https://www.irmi.com/articles/expert-commentary/the-environmental-risks-of-residential-construction

https://www.irmi.com/articles/expert-commentary/hidden-environmental-exposures-of-the-construction-industry

https://gocontractor.com/blog/how-does-construction-impact-the-environment/

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/construction-and-renovation-generated-pollutants-in-occupied-buildings

http://www.sustainablebuild.co.uk/pollutionfromconstruction.html