When dealing with an environmental contamination issue, businesses can easily feel overwhelmed. Common considerations owners have include the impact contamination will have on the business, costs to cleanup the problem, customers, employees, and the negative effect to their bottom line. Environmental contamination can mean a host of different things like soil and groundwater contamination. Whether the pollution happened because of your operations, a neighboring business, or a previous owner, the cleanup process does not have to involve closing your doors; however, it’s important to know that several factors go into the final decision on how to manage this unforeseen risk.
Extent of Damage
One of the biggest factors to consider, in this case, is the extent of damage caused by the pollution and the source areas. For example, if the contamination is found in the soil only, then the contaminated soil may need to be removed and replaced. The only real way to determine the extent of the damage is to perform tests. These tests can range from soil samples to air/vapor samples. Typically speaking, when the sampling phase occurs, techniques can be used to minimize intrusion on your business. Environmental professionals can explain what is taking place and that there is a failsafe solution once necessary information is gathered and the extent of any problem is determined.
The process to remove the contamination typically occurs outside of your business. Whether it is soil, groundwater, or even vapor intrusion, the issue can be resolved without cleanup crews disrupting the day-to-day functions of a business. If the contamination is indoors, like in an office building or manufacturing facility, then, most likely, employees and customers will not be allowed to enter the facility at certain stages until infrastructure for remedial devices are installed. Usually, the environmental professional will schedule these activities on off hours to minimize any business disruption.
Impact on Community
One of the main concerns most business owners have in this situation is the impact on their community. Whether you are a small business like a dry cleaner or a larger business, you are part of the community. The site contamination does not have to negatively impact your surroundings-it all depends on how you handle the situation. For example, if you own a facility and chemicals are found in your soil and groundwater you need to report the release or have an environmental professional report the release on your behalf. If you ignore your obligation, the problem becomes worse and the impact on the community can quickly become negative. However, choosing to address the problem, and ultimately clean your site up, shows you care about your neighbors and are working to make it environmentally safer.
By far the biggest fear owners have when it comes to cleaning up their facility is their employees. From an employee standpoint, owners are concerned about safety and retention. Hiring a good environmental professional who keeps everyone informed, including the employees, goes a long way to ease concerns.
If you are preparing for a contamination site cleanup and are worried about your business staying open, then you need to consider all of the factors noted above. Keep mind that in many cases having to close your business will not be known until your environmental professional has fully investigated the contamination. However, in most cases your business likely can remain open as long as you are flexible and stay in good communication with the professionals you have hired to address the problems.
Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to represent a legal opinion. Restorical is not a law firm and is unable to provide legal advice.