Because sewer utility contractors typically work below ground, they often do not know what they may encounter at jobsites. When installing new equipment, there may be sites or storage tanks that could be punctured and spilled, affecting soil or groundwater. Or during the maintenance or upgrade of existing sewer lines, they may come across hazardous materials or hazardous wastewater discharges. For this reason, they have to be cautious not to create a pollution condition or exacerbate an already underlying issue.
Environmental Concerns for Utility Contractors
Clearing/site grading/excavation activities
- During these activities, underground storage tanks may be punctured or piping may be broken open which could result in pollution spills below ground. This could result in cleanup costs, bodily injury (from contaminated drinking water wells, for example), or third party property damage from migration of pollutants to adjacent properties.
- Sewer line installation may be conducted in sensitive or protected areas such as wetlands. If the topography or pitch of the area is changed, silt or other pollutants may be discharged into the surrounding environment which could affect surface waters or biota in the area, causing Natural Resource Damages.
Releasing contaminants at a jobsite, either through chemicals or equipment brought onto jobsite, or those that are uncovered during work at the jobsite.
- Spills or backflow of contents from connected structures such as cesspools, septic tanks, or grease traps, etc. into the environment or adjacent properties causing environmental or property damage.
- Air emissions such as welding fumes, concrete dust, sewer gas, or combustion engine releases (such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates).
- Spills of wastewater, cleaning chemicals, or debris associated with sewer line maintenance or cleaning.Spills of fuels, lubricants, cleaners/flocculants, or cleaners from equipment such as vacuum/jet trucks or generators, etc.
- During site work, sewer contractors may encounter pipes that are used for things other than sewage such as gas lines or water mains. If those structures have holes in them or are compromised, sewer line contractors may be held responsible for the compromised condition of these structures.
Transporting waste or materials to or from a jobsite
- Spills may occur while chemicals or equipment are being transported to or from the jobsite, or during loading/unloading.
- Spills may occur while waste, debris, sludge, etc. are being transported from the jobsite to a disposal site.
Disposal of waste at non-owned facilities
- Sewer debris, such as sludge, discarded filters, and in some cases hazardous waste, may be disposed of improperly causing contamination at the landfill or disposal facility. This may result in claims against the landfill or disposal facility which could come back to the original generator (sewer contractor) of the waste.
- In general, if appropriate waste management protocols are not followed, civil fines or penalties can be assessed against the sewer contractor.
Insured’s owned premises
- Contamination at owned premises caused by the maintenance or storage of heavy equipment, mobile equipment, or vehicles.
- Storage of paints, chemicals, solvents, etc. at owned premises.
- ASTs used for waste oil, hydraulic fluids, or fuel.
- USTs used for refueling vehicles, heating oil, etc.
There are environmental insurance products available that can address the exposures sewer utility contractors may face. These include Contractors Professional Liability, Transportation Pollution Liability, Site Pollution Liability, and more. For more information or to request claim scenarios for utility contractors, contact us.