Hurricane Harvey Delivers Catastrophic Property Damage and Indoor Environmental Quality Issues

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Source: Clark Seif Clark Inc.

The building science and environmental professionals at CSC provide building assessments, surveys and testing services to prevent exposure hazards.

Chatsworth, CA -- This past weekend, Hurricane Harvey brought powerful winds and an unprecedented amount of rain that has resulted in devastating floods across large areas of Texas. In addition to tragic deaths as a result of the historic storm, countless homes, schools and businesses have been heavily damaged or even destroyed in some cases. 

One estimate from an insurance group has put the cost of the property damage caused by Hurricane Harvey at levels similar to those caused by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. In fact, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has said they are planning for a years-long recovery and rebuilding effort.   

“When people return back to their homes and businesses to begin the process of damage assessment, cleanup, demolition, repair and rebuilding, it’s important that they recognize that many of these damaged structures likely pose health and safety concerns for workers and any building occupants,” said Franco Seif, President at Clark Seif Clark (CSC). “Having worked many past hurricanes, including Katrina and Sandy, we know firsthand that most water damaged structures had more than just water enter them.  Flood waters can contain a host of microbial and chemical contaminants.  Even clean rain water, known as Category 1 water damage, that enters a building can begin to allow mold growth in as short as 48 hours.  Flood waters could be either Gray Water or Black Water, known as Category 2 and 3, depending on what they have been in contact with.  A host of viruses, parasites, bacteria, fungi, pesticides, fuels and other contaminants could be present. Legionella bacteria can also affect unoccupied, damaged buildings when stagnant water in pipes become contaminated, causing potential respiratory harm to building occupants upon their return. Only proper cleanup and restoration, followed up by a thorough post restoration verification assessment can insure an impacted property is habitable.” 

Another health and safety concern for residents relates to asbestos-containing materials and lead-based paints.  Many properties in the affected areas were built before the use of lead-based paints and building materials that contained asbestos were banned.  Cleanup activities and demolition can easily aerosolize these materials creating a health hazard to anyone nearby. Also, there are federal, state and city laws and regulations that one must abide by when handling asbestos or lead. 

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