Environmental Issues Left Behind: Document These Conditions To Save Claims Later.

Environmental liability, as a legal issue, is in its infancy; but maturing quickly. The challenge for contractors involves staying ahead of the evidence chain.

Since you don't know what hidden environmental tort will arise next, prevention and documentation protocols challenge your risk manager.

The following list includes our best guesses:


Document the moisture content of the internal parts of any building structure. Mold, mildew and bacteria thrive when the moisture content on surfaces is between 16% and 19%. Your goal is to dry areas out to below 15% moisture content.

Invest in a moisture meter and record readings before walls or ceilings are enclosed. Rain or humidity can bring the moisture content up. If anyone opens the walls or ceilings, document the potential change in writing to that contractor.


Any chemicals, whether used on wood destroying pests, specialty paints or to vapor seal a slab, are prone to migrate through a vapor phase within or through a building.

Document the products used and any safety data available currently.

Vapor intrusion will be a highly litigated issue over the next twenty years. The challenge is to prove whose vapors they are. Similar products contain same chemical families which can change and vaporize.

It is your risk management challenge to disprove your products involvement. And, look into buying and keeping records on all environmental insurance policies. Keep these records because they are a long-term investment in risk management.

Materials and Supplies

Remember the formaldehyde sheetrock? Know your suppliers and vendors and ask for environmental insurance certificates.

Buy paints and oils that are low in volatile organic compounds like toluene or xylene. These chemicals are used as drying agents, and thus they do not add to aesthetics.

Try to avoid any additive that will vaporize over time if used correctly.

Concrete Additives

They are great for aesthetics and ease of placement. Vapor intrusion through concrete floors will be litigated heavily. If you use an organic chemical to improve the floor or seal the floor, you will be dragged into every lawsuit affecting that building regardless of the source of contamination.

Document the chemicals used and monitor the results right after placement, that will be the maximum flux rate.

Fuel Inventories

Document no fuel spills on any site where you use fuel. Keep an inventory and take pictures of proper fuel storage with secondary containment.

If a spill occurs, mitigate the damage immediately by remediating the spill.

Document and maintain records on any potential environmental issue. Be sure to include evidence that you exceeded then state-of-the-art selection and prevention methods. Remember asbestos too. 

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