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What do hazardous waste response and disposal entail?

Hazardous waste response and disposal are crucial aspects of environmental law in Florida, aimed at protecting public health and the environment. Hazardous waste is any material, including solids, liquids, and gases, that poses a significant risk to humans, animals, or the environment when improperly managed.

Need help regarding environmental due diligence, permitting, mitigation, or compliance? Schedule your consultation today with a top environmental law attorney.

Which laws and regulations apply to hazardous waste response and disposal in Florida?

Various federal and state laws and regulations govern Florida’s hazardous waste response and disposal. At the federal level, the key legislation is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) [42 USC § 6901 et seq.]. The RCRA regulates the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste, requiring proper permits and adherence to specific requirements to ensure safe management.

In Florida, the primary legislation is the Resource Recovery and Management Act. This act provides state-level regulation of hazardous waste management, adopting many federal RCRA requirements and adding state-specific regulations.

The Florida DEP implements and enforces these regulations through the Florida Administrative Code (FAC) Chapter 62-730, which contains specific rules for managing hazardous waste, including permitting, storage, treatment, and disposal requirements. Additionally, FAC Chapter 62-780 establishes the procedures for assessing and remediating contaminated sites in Florida, consistent with CERCLA guidelines at the federal level.

What common issues regarding hazardous waste response and disposal lead to litigation?

The following issues are among the most common in actions regarding hazardous waste response and disposal in environmental law matters:

  • Improper disposal or storage: Failure to properly dispose of or store hazardous waste can lead to contamination of soil, groundwater, or surface water and may result in lawsuits by affected parties, including property owners and regulatory agencies.
  • Failure to obtain permits: Operating a hazardous waste facility without the required permits or violating permit conditions can trigger enforcement actions by regulatory agencies and potential litigation from neighboring property owners or other affected parties.
  • Incomplete site remediation: Inadequate cleanup of contaminated sites can expose responsible parties to liability for any remaining contamination or harm caused to human health or the environment.
  • Third-party liability: Businesses that generate or transport hazardous waste may face liability for contamination caused by third parties, such as waste disposal companies or subcontractors, if they fail to exercise due diligence in selecting and monitoring those third parties.

When a set of facts is appropriate for legal intervention, there are many paths a claimant may take. We are value-based attorneys at Jimerson Birr, which means we look at each action with our clients from the point of view of costs and benefits while reducing liability. Then, based on our client’s objectives, we chart a path to seek appropriate remedies.

To determine whether your unique situation may necessitate litigation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

What claims about hazardous waste response and disposal do plaintiffs generally bring to court, and what are common legal defenses to those claims?

Plaintiffs often bring claims related to hazardous waste response and disposal under various legal theories, including negligence, trespass, nuisance, and strict liability. In addition to meeting procedural and evidentiary requirements, plaintiffs must prove that the defendant caused or contributed to the hazardous waste contamination, harming the plaintiff or their property.

Common claims that real estate developers and businesses face related to hazardous waste response and disposal include:

  • Failure to adequately investigate and remediate contaminated properties
  • Negligent handling or disposal of hazardous waste
  • Causing or exacerbating contamination through construction or development activities
  • Operating hazardous waste facilities without proper permits or in violation of permit conditions

Defendants may raise several legal defenses against claims related to hazardous waste response and disposal, such as:

  • Statute of limitations: Asserting that the plaintiff’s claim is time-barred because it was not filed within the applicable statutory period.
  • Compliance with applicable laws and regulations: Demonstrating that the defendant met all legal requirements for hazardous waste management, including obtaining necessary permits and adhering to relevant guidelines.
  • Lack of causation: Arguing that the defendant’s actions did not cause or contribute to the alleged contamination or harm.
  • Contributory negligence: Contending that the plaintiff’s negligence played a role in the contamination or harm, potentially reducing or barring recovery.

Please contact our office to set up your initial consultation to see what actions or defenses may be available for your unique situation.

What are effective measures to minimize the risk of litigation over hazardous waste response and disposal?

Consider implementing the following measures:

  • Develop and maintain a comprehensive waste management plan: A well-structured plan that outlines waste identification, classification, storage, transportation, and disposal procedures helps ensure compliance with regulations and reduces the risk of mishandling hazardous waste.
  • Stay informed about regulatory changes: Regularly review and stay up-to-date with federal and state regulations, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) requirements, to ensure ongoing compliance.
  • Conduct thorough due diligence: When selecting waste disposal companies or subcontractors, conduct comprehensive background checks and verify their qualifications, experience, and compliance history to minimize potential liability for their actions.
  • Implement employee training and monitoring: Provide regular training for employees involved in hazardous waste management and implement monitoring systems to ensure adherence to established procedures and guidelines.
  • Obtain necessary permits and approvals: Ensure that your business has all required permits and approvals for hazardous waste management activities, and maintain a proactive approach to addressing compliance issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the penalties for non-compliance with hazardous waste regulations in Florida?

Penalties for non-compliance with hazardous waste regulations can include fines, imprisonment, or both, depending on the severity of the violation. Additionally, non-compliant businesses may face enforcement actions from regulatory agencies, such as the FDEP or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and potential litigation from affected parties.

  1. Can a business be held liable for hazardous waste contamination caused by a third party?

Yes, businesses that generate or transport hazardous waste may face liability for contamination caused by third parties, such as waste disposal companies or subcontractors, if they fail to exercise due diligence in selecting and monitoring those third parties.

  1. How can a business reduce the risk of liability for hazardous waste contamination during property development?

Businesses should conduct thorough environmental assessments and remediation activities on potentially contaminated properties before development. Additionally, they should implement best practices for managing hazardous waste during construction and development activities and ensure compliance with all applicable regulations.

Have more questions about an environmental law-related situation?

Crucially, this overview of hazardous waste response and disposal does not begin to cover all the laws implicated by this issue or the factors that may compel the application of such laws. Every case is unique, and the laws can produce different outcomes depending on the individual circumstances.

Jimerson Birr attorneys guide our clients to help make informed decisions while ensuring their rights are respected and protected. Our lawyers are highly trained and experienced in the nuances of the law, so they can accurately interpret statutes and case law and holistically prepare individuals or companies for their legal endeavors. Through this intense personal investment and advocacy, our lawyers will help resolve the issue’s complicated legal problems efficiently and effectively.

Having a Jimerson Birr attorney on your side means securing a team of seasoned, multi-dimensional, cross-functional legal professionals. Whether it is a transaction, an operational issue, a regulatory challenge, or a contested legal predicament that may require court intervention, we remain tireless advocates at every step. Being a value-added law firm means putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We use our experience to help our clients navigate even the most complex problems and come out the other side triumphant.

If you want to understand your case, the merits of your claim or defense, potential monetary awards, or the amount of exposure you face, you should speak with a qualified Jimerson Birr lawyer. Our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Call Jimerson Birr at (904) 389-0050 or use the contact form to schedule a consultation.

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