In our Halloween special feature last week, I wrote that the scariest environmental liability risk was long-dead environmental liability cases coming back to life. Today I thought I’d tell you about the environmental liability making this risk a very real possibility: Vapor intrusion.
Vapor intrusion is quickly emerging as one of the top environmental concerns today as regulators are “reopening” cases long thought closed.
What is Vapor Intrusion?
Vapor intrusion refers to the migration of volatile chemicals from a contaminated subsurface into overlying buildings or structures. The exposures include but are not limited to:
- Regulatory “reopeners”
- Third-party lawsuits
- Cleanup costs/remediation expenses
- New due diligence standards & regulations
- Increased notification requirements
- Source identification issues
The more alarming risk in the minds of many property and building owners as well as the regulatory and legal community, however, centers around the first bullet.
There have been literally hundreds of scenarios in Massachusetts, California and New York where the government has effectively “reopened” sites that had previously received regulatory closure in order to examine potential vapor intrusion issues more closely. And, in the case of the United States v. Intel Corp. and Raytheon Co., 91-CV-20275, the EPA and state agencies are starting to reopen sites where no vapor intrusion analysis was considered in earlier remedial decisions as well.
Fortunately, environmental insurance can effectively seal the coverage “cracks” and help manage and transfer this risk. Our fall 2012 Environmental Risk newsletter details the many exposures and liabilities that can affect many building and property owners throughout the U.S.