When reviewing the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) enforcement history, properly managing hazardous waste continues to be an area of great interest. A recent example occurred on August 5, 2002. Fifteen businesses and public entities in Downers Grove, Ill., were told, via a USEPA letter, that they might be at least partly liable for groundwater contamination in an unincorporated area near the Ellsworth Industrial Park. Notification to potentially responsible parties is a required procedure under the federal Superfund law and the preliminary step in conducting investigations into the past and present hazardous material handling and waste management techniques.
For the companies that have been actively pursuing pollution prevention programs and legally managing their wastes, the investigation is little more than a hassle of proving innocence. On the other hand, those companies that have been less than attentive to their waste handling procedures-look out! When the USEPA has data, as in the case above from sampling over 500 water wells and collecting soil borings from 90 locations since July 2001, they are looking for responsible parties to pay for the cleanup, which can be extremely costly and is in some cases devastating to the financial future of existing companies.