Moreover, the volume of the spill was not
sufficient to impact groundwater, which
could have easily transported contaminants and associated vapors well beyond
the boundaries of the insured’s property.
This type of loss is a fairly typical example of a residential environmental claim.
Years ago, this claim may have been settled
simply as a mechanical issue, with much
less focus on the longer-term environmental considerations, regulatory impact, and
vapor intrusion into the home. Recently,
the complicating factors to these claims
have been growing. Therefore, the methods employed to handle environmental
cases continue to progress. By the nature
of this type of work, environmental issues
frequently evolve because of the regulatory
climate, technological advances, litigation,
and cost considerations.
The tiny pinhole in the pipe elbow probably took more than 20 years to form and cause a leak, a day or two to be discovered, and less than an hour to be repaired. This recent claim involving the corrosion of a pipe lbow on a home heating oil tank resulted in the minor release of a few
gallons of heating oil into the surrounding surface soil. The insured acted appropriately,
and the release was quickly investigated and repaired. Based on the size of the tank and
the volume of the release, state regulations did not apply; however, local
regulators quickly became concerned
about the potential impact to shallow
groundwater in the area.
Although the shallow aquifer was
not considered a source of drinking
water, it was used extensively for irrigation purposes. Furthermore, the
property owner soon noticed petro-leum-like odors inside the home and
office, necessitating relocation for a couple of days. A few weeks after the repair of the
leak, the situation was completely resolved with the excavation and removal of impacted
soil from beneath a patio and a portion of the building adjoining the point of release.
Fortunately, specialists were able to not only discover but also remedy the release quickly.
While some believe
that the risks of vapor
intrusion are often
exaggerated, the threat of
serious health concerns is
Four Trends to Consider
To address these changes, insurers enlist the expertise of forensic consultants
in crafting these strategies:
E Crossover services. As noted in the
aforementioned project, often claims that
begin as standard forensic engineering
investigations routinely incorporate an
environmental component, such as soil
and groundwater hazards, and indoor air
quality issues, along with asbestos and
E Cost-reduction strategies. Not surprisingly, there has been an increased
focus on controlling expenditures. The
insurer’s handling of the claim, the role
of forensic consultants, and leveraging of
technology are all areas subject to cost-control measures.
E Application of technology. New technology is not only used to reduce expenses, but is also crucial in expediting claim
resolution while improving the quality of
an investigation and the speed of delivering information.
E Third-party claims. Innovative developments in the energy production sector
and previously dismissed issues in the environmental cleanup industry have resurfaced and have produced third party claim