The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season is officially upon us. Last year certainly was one for the record books, reminding us the extent of the unprecedented and widespread damage these storms can cause to homes and businesses. Many times, water damage to commercial and residential buildings goes beyond the damage that is immediately visible to a property’s physical structure. Environmental and health issues left behind in a storm’s wake are not always obvious or easy to recognize.
Common environmental challenges can include:
- Indoor air pollution. Standing water is a breeding ground for mold, viruses and bacteria, all of which grow quickly. Failure to properly remove contaminated materials, and reduce moisture and humidity, can pose a serious health and safety risk to anyone exposed to that environment. Quick action reduces the scope and cost of the project, as well as the time it takes to remediate.
- Damage to underground/aboveground storage tanks. Storage tanks can become inundated or dislodged by flood waters. Because of this damage, a tank’s contents can be released into the environment causing soil and groundwater contamination. In many locations, including New Jersey and New York, these types of spills need to be reported to the State.
- Asbestos/lead paint exposure. When water damages a property, insulation and other building materials become exposed. Building materials in many homes/businesses constructed before the early 1980s contain asbestos; paint in buildings constructed prior to 1978 may contain lead. Both are dangerous to occupants if not remediated quickly — and correctly. In these scenarios the environmental issues existed long before the flood, and flood damage is what brings these issues to the forefront.
- Loss of business in the aftermath of a flood can be particularly devastating to retailers. In retail settings there’s a heightened sensitivity to mold and indoor air quality issues as management needs to protect both employees and shoppers from potential health and safety risks. If remediation efforts are handled correctly, the retailer may not necessarily have to discard all inventory that appears to be flood damaged.
Resolving any of these environmental concerns in a timely and practical manner, under the guidance of a full-service environmental consulting firm, saves the property owner time and money, reduces liability, and lessens the potential impact on human health and the environment. While it’s always better to address remediation issues as soon as possible, it’s never too late to lessen flood damage from both a regulatory and liability standpoint.