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Cleaning and remediating HVAC systems after flooding

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2017 | Environmental Law |

South Jersey saw its share of flooding in recent years due to extreme weather conditions. Even years later, environmental issues could arise that threaten you, your family or your business. HVAC systems provide a fertile breeding ground for molds, fungi and bacteria that can cause illnesses. Even the parts of the system not submerged in water require cleaning.

How do I prepare for the job?

Two things require your attention prior to beginning cleaning and remediation efforts:

  1. Prepare the building: The area under construction needs to be isolated in order to avoid any airborne contamination, especially if at least part of the building remains occupied. Choosing the proper chemicals for the job also needs attention.
  2. Prepare workers: Workers need respirators in order to work in the affected areas. The type of respiratory equipment used depends on the extent of the contamination. However, the following minimal steps are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regardless of the type of system and equipment used:
  • Each worker must undergo a medical evaluation to determine whether he or she can physically tolerate the use of the respirator.
  • Each worker must undergo training for the proper use, cleaning and storage of the respirators.
  • Devise a testing procedure to ensure the proper fit of the respirators.
  • Conduct inspections to ensure the safety of the work area.

In addition to respiratory equipment, provide workers with hearing, eye and skin protection to ensure their safety.

What does the cleaning and remediation process entail?

Successful remediation requires the completion of numerous steps. The following includes the basic steps involved. Admittedly, this might oversimplify the process, but the details vary from job to job.

  1. All contaminated parts of the system need removing.
  2. The salvageable parts require cleaning and disinfecting.
  3. Replace any parts with irreparable damage.
  4. Rebuild the system.
  5. Conduct inspections to ensure no contaminants remain and the system works properly.
  6. Conduct routine check to make sure the system continues to work properly.

Some parts of the HVAC might only require cleaning, but other parts might require replacing. Depending on the severity of the damage, the whole system might need replacing.

Paying for the cleaning and remediation could present a problem. Unfortunately, federal and state environmental laws do not give you a choice. The demands placed on you to comply with current regulations could put you in a precarious financial position. Insurance coverage might cover the cost, but your insurance company might balk at the prospect of paying for it. Even if you agree that the work needs to be done, everyone involved should be reasonable.

If you experience issues with either the government or an insurance company, it might benefit you to discuss your situation with an attorney. He or she could negotiate on your behalf with one or both in order to help make the process less of a hassle for you.