Atlantic Legal Defends Small Business Against Overzealous EPA

Atlantic Legal is serving as special counsel to a major national law firm in defending a small chemical manufacturing company and its principal against a recovery claim brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under 107(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. EPA claims it is entitled to recovery costs of approximately $1.2 million.

This case exemplifies EPA’s penchant for targeting small businesses without the resources to fight EPA and its willful ignorance or distortion of the facts in its own record.

EPA conducted a Removal Action (RA) to remove chemicals that had leaked from four tanks owned by the company at a site leased by the company based on the belief that the tanks were ignitable, which would make the chemicals hazardous waste, and findings of a 1996 environmental report claiming that the site was contaminated.

However, a 1999 report, prepared by the same EPA consultant which had prepared the 1996 report, concluded that the contamination was minimal and was not a risk to health and safety. In 2001, the EPA tested the four tanks on the site for the presence of hazardous waste, and found that the substances in the tanks were not ignitable and therefore the site was not eligible for an RA. In 2004, the EPA again tested the tanks for the possibility of hazardous waste and found that the contents of the tanks were not ignitable, but contained hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. (An independent research group subsequently found that the EPA’s testing was flawed and that there was in fact no hazardous waste in the tanks.) Between 1999 and the commencement of EPA’s RA, the local town government removed the tanks because the chemical company was no longer using the site. In the course of that operation, the town’s contractor damaged the tanks and overturned one of them, causing the release of chemicals.

In addition to being based on incorrect findings, the RA at issue extended beyond the time permitted by federal regulations and at exorbitant cost, almost 20 times original estimate of the cleanup costs.

The case is styled United States vs. Saturn Chemical, et al.