Unfairly, costs of CERCLA cleanup have mostly been paid by the parties whose properties were contaminated
In 1978, a state of emergency was declared in Love Canal, New York. Hundreds of people within the Niagara Falls neighborhood were struggling with serious health problems, ranging from skin conditions to leukemia. The cause of their suffering was living in close proximity to a hazardous landfill.
As a consequence of this unfortunate occurrence, the federal government passed CERCLA.
This act gives the federal government the power to tax chemical and petroleum companies liable for releasing hazardous waste into unregulated areas.
Furthermore, the law enables federal authorities to directly respond to the dumping or spilling of dangerous substances that threaten the environment or human life.
The main purpose of CERCLA is to fund the costs entailed by the cleanup activities required to remove hazardous substances from contaminated sites. However, the expenses of cleanup procedures are often very high, particularly if the contaminated region is extended and if the pollutants which need to be abated are difficult to remove, as well as when the completion of the cleanup activities implies a long period of time. For this reason, we strongly encourage you to reach out to a lawyer whose primary area of practice is toxic exposure, who will help you recover the money necessary to pay for the cleanup of the contaminated area from the liable party.
The parties responsible for contamination may be any generators of hazardous materials on location, transporters of hazardous materials to the site, and past or present site owners. When no responsible party can be identified, the Environmental Protection Agency initiates the cleanup process of the contaminated area with the use of the money set aside for this purpose. However, when a responsible party can be identified, it can willingly cleanup the site, but if they are unwilling, the agency will order them to do it.
The Superfund of CERCLA currently has over $1.6 billion set aside for the cleanup of contaminated sites throughout the country. Furthermore, the purpose of this act was to:
- determine prohibitions and requirements concerning abandoned hazardous waste sites
- provide for liability of persons responsible for releases of hazardous waste at these sites
- establish a trust fund to provide for cleanup when no responsible party could be identified
In 2016, there were 1,303 Superfund sites in the United States. The state with the largest number of Superfund sites was New Jersey, followed by California and Pennsylvania. On the other hand, the states with the least Superfund sites were North Dakota, which has no contaminated areas, Nevada and South Dakota. The largest Superfund site in the country is undoubtedly Hanford, which is located in Washington. It is a decommissioned nuclear production complex that was operated by the United States federal government on the Columbia River in Benton County.