Frequent Questions

When are third parties (property owners, cities, counties, lenders) responsible for spill cleanup?

As a matter of policy, EPA does not hold third parties liable for clean up of hazardous waste sites so long as they did not contribute to or take action at the site that caused further contamination.

EPA considers the amount and harmfulness of waste contributed or the level of involvement at a site when negotiating a cleanup plan with potentially responsible parties (PRPs). Some may have only contributed a small amount of hazardous waste, while others may have contributed a large amount, but it might not have been very harmful. De minimis, a Latin term meaning "at the least," describes these two types of PRPs in the Superfund program. For example, a de minimis party might be a neighborhood dry cleaner that sent a small amount of hazardous waste to a landfill. For parties contributing an even smaller amount of waste than de minimis parties, EPA uses the term de micromis.

EPA works closely with both de minimis and de micromis PRPs when negotiating for the cleanup of a site. This allows small hazardous waste contributors to agree to their fair share of cleanup costs and complete the negotiation process. These settlements also protect small hazardous waste contributors from future legal actions brought by EPA or by other PRPs. This is an important benefit, because parties sometimes sue each other for money in an effort to lower their cleanup costs. De minimis and de micromis settlements save time and money for all parties involved and provide settlers with a high level of confidence that they have met their responsibilities for a clean site.

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