We recently wrote about a new memorandum from EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management that sets forth eleven recommendations for the agency’s regional offices on how to clean up contaminated sediments, and later covered some of the recommendations in greater detail. Here we discuss the rest of EPA’s recommendations. EPA’s recommendations are shown below in bold text, followed by our comments and analysis. Recommendation 6: Develop risk reduction expectations that are achievable by the remedial action. The National Contingency Plan requires EPA’s remediation goals at a given site to be protective of human health and the environment, but sometimes natural or anthropogenic background concentrations unrelated to the CERCLA release being remediated (especially for persistent contaminants associated with cancer risks, such as PCBs and dioxins) can make it impossible to achieve that goal via the cleanup. In such cases, expectations need to match reality, and the remedy should include additional risk reduction strategies (e.g., fish consumption advisories) to ensure protectiveness. Recommendation 7: Consider the limitations of models in predicting future conditions for purposes of decision making. Environmental professionals, no less than anyone else, can forget that computers are tools that help to inform decisions, but cannot replace human judgment. Even the most sophisticated...
Last month, we wrote about a new memorandum from the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management that sets forth 11 recommendations for the agency’s regional offices on how to clean up contaminated sediments. Here we discuss some of those recommendations in greater detail. The EPA’s recommendations are shown below in bold text, followed by our comments and analysis. Recommendation 1: Consider early actions during the remedial investigation/feasibility study in site areas presenting high risks to help reduce risks quickly. Here, the EPA advises its regional offices not to wait until the sediments at a site are well characterized before taking steps to reduce serious risks. In many situations, the EPA can use its removal authority to reduce serious risks while other portions of the site are studied. Recommendation 2: Ensure adequate data collection during the remedial investigation/feasibility study to support the evaluation of alternatives. It’s never too early to plan ahead. From the very start of the process, the focus should be on collecting data that will support an eventual evaluation of remedial alternatives. Avoid “study for study’s sake.” Recommendation 3: Evaluate the risks associated with exposures to contaminated sediments, including submerged sediments. While the greatest risks at many sites likely involve...
From Portland Harbor in Oregon to New Jersey’s Passaic River, contaminated sediment sites present unique challenges. While the EPA issued guidance documents for addressing contaminated sediment sites in 2002 and 2005, it has since learned many lessons in addressing dozens of such sites. A new memorandum from the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM), formerly the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, sets forth 11 recommendations for improving the way the agency’s regional offices handle the complex process of cleaning up contaminated sediments.
Paper Companies That “Created, Mobilized and Profited From” PCBs Must Bear 100% of Cleanup Costs in Fox River CERCLA Case, But May Not Be Liable for PCBs in Waste Paper Sold to Recyclers
The other shoe dropped on February 28 in the closely watched CERCLA case involving PCB contamination of the Fox River in Wisconsin. District Judge William C. Griesbach, who had previously ruled that the paper companies that made and discharged PCBs to the river could not seek contribution from recycling mills that unknowingly bought PCB-laden waste paper, called “broke,” and also discharged PCBs, held that those companies must reimburse those comparatively innocent companies for 100% of the costs they have incurred for most of the polluted river. But he held that it was too early to say whether the paper companies knew, and did, enough, to make them liable for “arranging for” disposal of the PCBs that ended up in the recycling mills’ discharges to an upstream stretch of the river.
Judge Robert J. Bryan of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington recently issued two opinions in United States v. Washington State Department of Transportation that could have significant implications on the scope and extent of liability under the Comprehensive, Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), 42 U.S.C. §9601 et seq., particularly at urban river sites and harbors. Both decisions examine the liability of the Washington State Department of Transportation (“WSDOT”) at the Commencement Bay/Nearshore Tidelands Superfund Site.