In 1978, a state of emergency was declared in Love Canal, New York. Hundreds of people within this Niagara Falls neighborhood were experiencing adverse health effects, ranging from leukemia and birth defects to skin conditions.
The cause? Living in close proximity to a hazardous landfill. For years, toxic waste had been dumped into the city’s canal, releasing harmful pollutants into the water supply and seeping into the earth.
As a result of the Love Canal tragedy, the federal government passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980. This has become a cornerstone environmental program that authorizes important removal actions, holds responsible parties accountable, and protects communities long-term.
How Does CERCLA Work?
CERCLA gives the federal government the power to tax chemical and petroleum companies found responsible for releasing hazardous waste into unregulated areas. The law enables federal authorities to directly respond to the dumping or spilling of dangerous substances that threaten the environment or human life.
CERCLA permits federal authorities to act swiftly when a qualifying spill occurs, allowing them to manage short-term removals and long-term responses. Part of CERCLA is a federal trust that can be used to fund clean-up efforts when a polluter either can’t pay or can’t be identified.
Why Is CERCLA Important?
The events in Love Canal that spurred the creation of CERCLA sparked a national conversation about the dangers of dumping hazardous materials in unregulated communities. CERCLA holds guilty parties accountable for unlawful dumping, and ultimately forces companies handling dangerous materials to be more conscientious. By increasing accountability, and penalizing those guilty of dumping hazardous substances, the instances of hazardous spills have lessened. When a spill does occur, CERCLA’s cleanup protocol ensures these accidents are handled quickly and effectively.
Those responsible for transporting hazardous or dangerous materials can protect themselves with comprehensive pollution insurance. If an incident occurs and you’re found responsible from CERCLA investigations, comprehensive coverage can safeguard your company’s reputation and finances.
CERCLA & Limits of Liability
CERCLA applies to both land- and water-based occurrences. It’s important to choose a vessel pollution underwriter that understands these statues and applies them accordingly to offer the broadest coverage to protect your company’s reputation and finances.
Under section 107(a)1, the limits of liability for an owner or operator of any vessel (other than an incineration vessel) that carries any hazardous substance as cargo or residue is $300 per gross ton or $5,000,000, whichever is greater; or for any other vessel (other than an incineration vessel) the limit is $300 per gross ton or $500,000, whichever is greater. Be careful to read your vessel pollution policy as not all forms include both first- and third-party liability under this section. For questions on CERCLA or any other vessel pollution related issues, please contact Safe Harbor.