Steve Figgins and Gary Hokkanen Speak at EECMA Conference

July 12, 2015

Emerging and Environmental Claims Managers AssociationFarallon Principals Steve Figgins and Gary Hokkanen participated in presentations at the  (EECMA) Conference held recently in Orlando, Florida.  Steve’s presentation, attended by over 150 insurance firm representatives, attorneys, claims managers, and consultants, focused on the conflict over scarce water in California’s drought-wracked central basin area, where agricultural and petroleum-production interests appear to be headed for a major clash over groundwater.  At issue are the potential effects of brine injection on groundwater quality and the over-pumping of groundwater for agricultural use, resulting in a 30-foot decline in the water table since the 1950s, and reduced groundwater quality.  Audience concerns included the safety of brine disposal into oil-producing formations, and links between brine-disposal wells and aquifers that supply drinking water.  Conference attendees also speculated about the potential for lawsuits related to California’s limited water availability.

Hydrogeologist Gary Hokkanen from Farallon’s Oakland, California office presented a detailed discussion of the relationship between releases of the dry cleaning solvent tetrachloroethene (PCE) from dry cleaner facilities and municipal sewer systems.  PCE can be released from dry cleaner facilities via a number of means, including discharge of wastewater to municipal sanitary sewers.  Wastewater containing PCE can leak from cracks and joints in sanitary sewer pipes.  Such leakage has involved municipalities in lawsuits related to PCE contamination originating from dry cleaner facilities.  With as many as 90,000 former dry cleaner facilities across the United States, releases of PCE to the subsurface are a major challenge for stakeholders tasked with investigation and cleanup. 

The annual EECMA conference is a forum for communicating the latest topics and trends in environmental litigation affecting insurance companies and their clients.