In short, yes, you can be liable for any contamination that your business causes. Although there can be mitigating circumstances, you are responsible for cleaning any part of the environment that you damage.
There are three forms of environmental contamination liabilities.
Removal costs can vary drastically depending on the amount of damage and the size of the area. They can also vary depending on what is contaminating the land. It is up to you to ensure that all contamination is gone and no more danger exists. This can mean removing hazardous materials or soil.
They will also require you to pay for damages such as:
- Destruction of property and natural resources
- Loss of use of the land and resources
- Tax value losses
- Cost of studies for health and other impacts
- Losses to landowners
Although these are not the only damages, they are some of the most common when dealing with environmental contamination.
Punitive damages are harder to define than the other types of liabilities. The punitive damages can be fines levied against a business and costs that a court imposes to penalize a business for the contamination of the land.
Sometimes the courts divide these liabilities between two or more parties that had a part in creating the contamination. This split and other costs associated with contamination are all part of the Superfund Liability laws known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.
These liabilities are there for the protection of the land and to ensure the area is safe for future use.