No business wants to face a pollution loss, but the exposures are real and claims happen.

Drilling contractors have a responsibility to maintain the highest level of safety and environmental awareness at jobsites. Without proper training, mistakes can be made, resulting in potential environmental incidents, injuries to personnel or third parties, and litigation suits.

Environmental Risk Professionals aims to help you navigate and mitigate these various risks you may face as a drilling contractor.

Consider this environmental example:

A drilling contractor struck a wastewater pipe, causing the release of 780,000 of untreated wastewater over the course of two days. Eight months later, another contractor was drilling in the same area of the city and also struck a wastewater pipe, releasing 875,000 gallons of wastewater. Both situations resulted in releases of wastewater into a nearby bay. The city and two drilling contractors were sued by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection for violating laws against waste discharge, pollution and water-quality standards.

You can download CERC’s tips for Drilling Contractors by clicking on the button below, or continue reading by scrolling down the page.

01. Contaminants

Pre-existing contamination, whether known or unknown, may be present in site soils. Disturbance could spread contamination to previously uncontaminated soil and groundwater or to adjacent properties.  The transportation and disposal of any excavated material and contaminated soil could also create environmental liability.

02. Equipment

Heavy equipment and mobile refueling tanks may be brought to and stored on the job site.  Drilling equipment is often powered by diesel fuel and requires petroleum-based hydraulic fluids and lubricants. Release of fuels, lubricant oils and chemicals resulting from accidental spills, leaks or vandalism can discharge pollutants into the soil and groundwater, or contaminants can collect in stormwater run-off and discharge into water systems.

03. Erosion Control

Drilling operations can disturb the surface cover and expose bare soils, resulting in migration of silt and sediment in runoff. Silt and sediment are fine grained soil particles that are readily carried in surface runoff.  Improper erosion control or handling of sediment-laden water can lead to surface runoff that can impair the functionality of storm water drainage systems and catch basins, severely damage water quality and can threaten aquatic systems and drinking water sources.

04. Underground Utilities

Failure to properly locate underground utilities such as gas lines, water and sewage pipes, or unknown hazards, such as abandoned storage tanks and septic tanks, could result in striking a line or causing an accidental puncture. This could cause a subsequent release of fuel oil, chemicals, toxic gases or sewage. 

05. Air Pollutants

Air pollutants and toxic gases can be generated from blasting operations, heavy equipment trafficking across a site, trenching or drilling under dry soil conditions and jackhammering concrete or pavement cover. Hazardous air emissions can migrate off site with wind currents and pose inhalation exposures to third-parties.

06. Drilling Fluids

Drilling fluids may contain various additives to help cool and lubricate drills, aid in the flotation of drill cuttings, seal porous layers of the drilling area and more.  These compounds can be toxic, especially to aquatic systems and other natural resources.  Drilling fluids could contaminate and/or cross-contaminate groundwater.  A containment breach or spill could also occur during storage and transportation of additives, base fluids and premixed fluids.  Releases can migrate, or be carried off site by storm water runoff, and impact adjacent properties, storm water drains and nearby surface waters. 

07. Crystalline Silica

Any work done with concrete, cement, mortars and numerous types of clay can release disease-causing, respirable crystalline silica. Releases may occur through grinding, cutting, or blasting, and can also occur during transport and handling.  Any dry emissions generate potential inhalation exposures because airborne particles stay suspended and concentrate in the absence of wind or dilution mechanisms. Off-site aerial drift can settle out in surface soil and adjacent structures and expose third-parties. Inhaled crystalline silica can accumulate in the lungs and cause scarring and formation of nodules and can cause illness such as silicosis, which is permanent and irreversible. 

08. Washout Water

Equipment washout and decontamination water can contain toxic materials and be caustic and corrosive.  Improper washouts from cleaning mobile equipment, pumps, hoses and drill rods can leach into soil and groundwater or can run off site and into storm drains that discharge to surface waters and result in significant damage to natural resources and aquatic life.

09. Explosive Residue

“Explosive residue” may be left in the form of unexploded material after completion of blasting operations.  The explosive residue can contain hazardous materials, such as nitrate and fuel oil, which can enter groundwater and surface water, such as ponds and wetlands, through gravity flow and washing of the aggregate and can harm natural resources.


Non-environmental drilling contractors have a  variety of environmental exposures to consider when at a jobsite. Taking steps to become a Certified Environmentally Responsible Contractor (CERC) will not only put your future clients at ease, it will help train your employees to mitigate environmental risks and may help your business reduce or avoid potential litigation and lawsuits.

CERC showcases contractors by helping them stand out from lesser-qualified competition and win more bids. Contractors become CERC certified by establishing an environmental risk management training plan and securing true pollution coverage. Insurance requirements include a one (1) million dollar limit; first and third-party transportation coverage; non-owned disposal sites (NODS) coverage; mold coverage; natural resource damage coverage; and no sudden and accidental pollution release coverage limitation.

About CERC

Certified Environmentally Responsible Contractors (CERC) is a certification program that aims to promote environmentally responsible contractors by helping them stand out from lesser-qualified competition and win more bids. Contractors can become certified when managing their environmental risks by securing broadened pollution insurance and by appropriately training their employees. Training may include OSHA required training, industry-wide standard practices and/or Pollution Prevention Practices provided by Environmental Risk Professionals.