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Considerations in Responding to Hazardous Waste Remediation Obligations

William E. Hvidsten, Ground Water Contamination (1991)

Much has been written on the impact of the federal superfund law (CERCLA) and its state counterparts and the imposition of strict liability on owners and operators of real property and on generators and transporters of hazardous waste. However, the more critical questions often do not concern whether a party is liable, but rather the extent to which a party must remediate a contaminated site and how the party saddled with the cleanup obligation can recover damages resulting from the contamination.

This paper addresses the practical issues raised in the evaluation of contaminated sites and the ability of a responsible party to exercise discretion in the investigation and remediation of the site. Further, the paper focuses on some of the key factors to be examined in determining damages resulting from contaminated sites and on the ability of a responsible party to recover its damages from other responsible parties.

HOW MUCH DO I HAVE TO DO AND WHEN DO I HAVE TO DO IT?

The typical reaction of a property owner or other responsible party faced with hazardous waste contamination is to ignore the problem with the hope that it will go away. Landowner liability and cleanup obligations are primarily driven by regulatory agencies such as EPA or their state counterparts. [13-2] Absent some triggering event, most responsible parties do nothing or as little as pos