We are continuing to look at the Superfund cleanup process, particular how the Environmental Protection Agency holds parties accountable for their contributions to toxic waste. We’ve already spoken briefly about the three characteristics of Superfund liability. Now, the question is: when is liability triggered and what exactly is a contaminating party responsible for?
First of all, a party becomes liable for contamination anytime there is hazardous waste at a facility, some of these hazardous wastes are released, the cleanup of these wastes will incur costs, and the party is one of the following: (a) a current owner and operator of the facility; (b) a past owner and operate of a facility at a time when hazardous wastes were disposed; (c) a party who generated the waste or arranged for its disposal or transport; or (d) a transporter of hazardous waste who selected the site where the toxic waste was to be disposed.
What exactly is a party meeting these criteria liable for in the cleanup process? According to the EPA, a liable party is responsible for the costs the government incurs in the cleanup itself, but also for the costs of certain health assessments and damages to natural resources. In addition, a liable party may be subject to injunctive relief in some form when a site presents the possibility of imminent and substantial endangerment. Injunctive relief can vary depending on the circumstances, but can in some cases require liable parties to perform the cleanup on their own.
In our next post, we’ll look at some of the factors that can reduce or cancel responsibility for a contaminating party.