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A signage saying “DANGER ASBESTOS REMOVAL IN PROGRESS,” which is an example of construction pollution


February 14, 2022

6 Ways Construction Sites Can Be Held Liable for Pollution

From asbestos exposure and site run-off water contamination to mould/mildew proliferation— construction companies can be held liable for a wide array of pollution incidents. 

The construction industry is already laden with a number of physical hazards, as well as risks from inclement weather. Therefore, pollution liability is an added risk that many companies cannot afford.

In this article, we talk about:

Let’s begin!  

Silt and sediment being trapped with a turbidity curtain to reduce water-related construction pollution

What is Construction Pollution? 

An incident of pollution occurs when a pollutant is introduced into a certain area, causing a negative impact on the environment, wildlife, a man-made structure, and/or people. Pollution can be classified as air pollution, water pollution, land pollution, or noise pollution.

It can also be classified as sudden or gradual, depending on the time span that the incident occurs. For example, accidental spillage of cement in a nearby body of water is considered sudden pollution. Meanwhile, toxic construction site run-off that’s accumulating slowly in a nearby body of water is classified as gradual pollution. 

When talking about pollution, the term “pollutants” encompasses various solids, liquids, and gasses that have a negative impact. Furthermore, energy can also be a pollutant. A few examples of pollution involving energy include thermal pollution and noise pollution.

Now that we’ve covered what pollution is and cited a few examples of construction pollution, it becomes clear why construction companies face numerous risks in terms of contractors pollution liability.

What is Contractors Pollution Liability?

Essentially, contractors pollution liability pertains to the legal responsibility that contractors and construction companies face when an incident of pollution is tied to their business operations. 

In the event that a contracting business or construction company is found liable for pollution, they can face legal fees and steep settlement fees—as well as clean-up and emergency response costs. 

How Construction and Contracting Companies Become Liable for Pollution (Examples)

1. Noise

Noise pollution from construction occurs when loud sounds are released into an area and cause detrimental effects on the health of nearby people or other living organisms. 

Though a certain amount of noise is unavoidable during a construction, demolition, or renovation project, there is a threshold that companies need to be aware of. For instance, operating outside of the permitted hours or making unnecessary excessive noise can result in a lawsuit.  

Here is an example lawsuit in Quebec concerning noise pollution and contractors pollution liability. The settlement amounted to $ 3.5 million.

2. Mould

Construction companies, renovators, and homebuilders can be sued for the introduction or proliferation of mould in a structure that they handle. The settlements can get steep when the presence of mould leads to health complications or even death. 

As an example, a couple in Calgary filed an $11 million lawsuit against a homebuilder in Calgary because the mould issues were said to have contributed to the death of their 24-year-old daughter. 

3. Asbestos

Materials containing asbestos have already been phased out. However, if there is a need to demolish an old structure with asbestos in its construction materials, asbestos removal must be done first. Otherwise, asbestos can be released into the air, causing various respiratory health risks. 

This can lead to an asbestos exposure lawsuit ranging from $1 million to $2.4 million or more.

4. Dust

Construction companies can be held liable for careless work that results in the blowing of harmful dust, such as the following: 

  • Wood dust
  • Silica dust
  • Mineral dust
  • Demolition dust

One example lawsuit involving construction pollution with dust is this $10 million claim from a wind turbine project in Niagara. 

5. Site Run-Offs

Construction site run-offs need to be handled with care. Otherwise, they can pollute nearby bodies of water with contaminants like concrete, paint, fuel, and so on. 

As an example, a site run-off lawsuit in Morgantown involved the repair cost of a slipping hillside amounting to $161,438 to $173,734.

6. Other Potential Causes of Contractors Pollution Liability

Aside from the causes mentioned above, contractors pollution liability can include the following as well: 

  • Mishandled storage tanks that lead to spillage of gasoline or oil
  • Leaking construction equipment
  • Accidents involving supply-carrying trucks that lead to the spillage of concrete, fuel, and other contaminants

A mishandled old storage tank leaking oil into a body of water

Does Commercial General Liability Cover Pollution? 

Although commercial general liability has a broad scope that covers various kinds of third-party injuries and property damage, it does not cover pollution liability.

If a construction company or contracting business needs coverage for contractors pollution liability, the type of insurance needed for this is pollution liability insurance.

What Does a Contractors Pollution Liability Policy Cover? 

Pollution liability insurance for contractors protects construction companies from massive financial loss in the event that they are held liable for an incident of pollution.

Pollution liability insurance covers legal fees, settlement fees, clean-up costs, and emergency response costs—up to the policy’s coverage limit. In addition, pollution liability insurance from a trusted insurance broker provides exemplary coverage for the following: 

  • Incidents of sudden pollution
  • Incidents of gradual pollution
  • Legionella and Mould 

Get Customized Contractors Pollution Liability Insurance Today 

In this article, we talked about contractors pollution liability and numerous examples. How pollution liability insurance can help construction and contracting businesses get the protection they need was also discussed.

And because construction companies face numerous risks of pollution liability, pollution liability insurance is considered a must-have type of insurance for businesses in this industry. If you’re ready to get a customized contractors pollution liability insurance plan, we’re here to help.

Contractors Insurance is an Ontario-based insurance brokerage firm that specializes in providing customized insurance for contractors, tradespeople, and professionals. Our award-winning team is here to help you with all your insurance needs.

Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.


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