VERTEX was retained by an international property and casualty insurance carrier to assist them in the review of groundwater analytical data and other information pertaining to investigation of a claim made by an Insured gasoline service station owner on their environmental pollution insurance policy. The claim pertained to a documented release of gasoline from an underground storage tank system on the site in 2005, for which coverage was accepted by the carrier. Recent groundwater sampling and analytical data obtained in June 2022 showed a significant increase in benzene concentration in groundwater relative to the last sampling performed in March 2022. The carrier asked VERTEX to obtain and review all of the pertinent historical site documentation and analytical data and offer a professional opinion as to whether the observed increase in benzene concentration was related to a new release having occurred at the site.
VERTEX concluded from their review that there was no clear evidence or confirmation of a new release having occurred at the site and that the observed increase in benzene concentration was most likely due to natural fluctuations in concentrations resulting from naturally occurring changes in subsurface conditions at the site such as fluctuations of the groundwater table and remobilization of contaminants absorbed into soil. This conclusion was based in part on historical fluctuations in benzene concentration, an accompanying increase in the concentration of MTBE (which had not been used as a gasoline additive in New Jersey since at least the mid-2000s), and decreasing concentrations observed for other gasoline-related contaminants present in groundwater. VERTEX’s opinion was used by the carrier to assist with coverage analysis regarding planned groundwater remediation activities estimated to cost approximately $500,000.
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