The list of chemicals that are considered hazardous is lengthy. You should check your local or federal hazardous waste agencies for a complete list. Some hazardous waste substances include:
These types of substances can create injury hazards and health risks through various mechanisms. These include inhalation, ingestion of, or contact with chemicals or substances.
Are There Federal Laws to Clean Up Contaminated Land?
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), commonly known as “Superfund,” requires the following persons or businesses to pay for the cleanup of hazardous substances:
- Current owner and/or occupant of the land, regardless if they were the ones who contaminated the land
- Owner or occupants of the land at the time the chemicals were improperly disposed of
- Anyone who arranged for the improper disposal or caused the spill of chemicals
- Anyone who brought the chemicals to the land to be disposed
Thus, it is possible that various persons or businesses may be responsible for a cleanup, especially if they fall under these various requirements.
How are Cleanup Costs Determined?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will examine the site and estimate the cost of cleanup. Because time is of the essence, the EPA will often clean the land and then sue the landowner for the cleanup costs.
Calculation of the cleanup expenses can depend on many factors, including: the size and extent of property involved, whether any property was unique or irreplaceable, and other considerations.
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What If My Neighbor Polluted My Land?
You may go ahead and cleanup your land, and then using CERCLA, sue the owner of the polluting land to recover your cleanup costs. You should consult an attorney before cleaning up your land.
If possible, it may be helpful to begin compiling documents or other evidence that might be useful for the claim. This can include photos or videos of damaged property, property boundary markings, and other forms of evidence.
Are There Any Defenses to Avoid Paying Cleanup Costs?
The general public wants polluted land and contaminated water immediately cleaned. However, in limited circumstances, CERCLA will prevent an innocent landowner or innocent buyer from paying cleanup costs. To use this defense, the innocent party must meet many criteria including having:
- Acquired the land after the improper disposal occurred
- Conducted a thorough pre-purchase investigation into the previous use of the land and found no problems
- Had no reason to know about any contamination
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Hazardous Substance Problem?
If you or your business has been sued for environmental cleanup costs, a local government attorney can work with the regulatory agency to reduce or eliminate your liability. If your land was polluted by a neighbor, a property attorney can inform you of your rights and remedies.