As a contractor, you can be responsible for pollution caused in connection with your work. Your general liability policy almost certainly contains a total pollution exclusion. But you deal with potential pollutants on a daily basis:
Fuel or Hydraulic fluids
Mold from water intrusions caused by your work
Dust from Concrete or Drywall
Concrete washout water
Assorted jobsite debris
Unknown pollutants on a jobsite, such as underground storage tanks
US law imposes strict liability on anyone involved in the release of a pollutant, and imposes legal liability on them to contribute to the cleanup. Even if you did not directly cause the pollution event, you can still get sued.
Here are a few examples of pollution claims involving the construction industry:
- A contractor used muriatic acid while doing a concrete etching job. The fumes were not properly contained, and damaged fixtures in the building and caused occupants to feel ill. The contractor was held liable for the damage and illness.
- A roofing contractor took on a job that was found to involve asbestos roofing tiles. They hired an abatement firm, who successfully removed the tiles and disposed of them at a licensed landfill. A fire ignited at the landfill, causing the release of some asbestos, among other pollutants. Everyone involved with the asbestos waste, including the roofing contractor, were sued by the EPA.
- A weatherization contractor was hauling 100 gallons of liquid waterproofing to a jobsite when the vehicle was involved in an accident and the waterproofing spilled onto the road. The contractor was required to pay for the cleanup, which was not covered by general liability or auto liability.
- A window contractor failed to adequately seal the window penetration in the wall, and water was able to enter the walls, leading to the formation of mold, which caused the inhabitants to get sick.
- A flooring contractor noticed that there was old tile underneath a plywood subfloor, and some of the tile had been disturbed and damaged during work. Testing was done and the tile was found to contain asbestos, and that dust from the tiles had contaminated the building. The contractor was responsible for the abatement and cleanup costs.
Review the pollution and professional liability risks facing your industry by downloading the Environmental & Professional Risk Overviews below.