Representative Cases

Portland Harbor and Columbia Slough

Environmental Compliance has represented Potentially Responsible Persons (“PRPs”) at both the Portland Harbor and Columbia Slough “Superfund” sites.  In one case we substantially reduced the “equitable allocation” to our client by differentiating (by toxicity and dispersal) between the hazardous substance our client discharged (a heavy metal) from those discharged by other parties (primarily chlorinated organics like dioxin).  In another case we proved that our client contributed nothing at all to a nearby release of hazardous substances.  We have also been very successful at reducing our clients’ shares of response costs by bringing in Responsible Persons who had previously gone unidentified by the government, even at so-called “orphan” sites.  Read More…


Tannery Waste

Our client, a custom home builder, came to us after discovering that the five-acre urban, residential lot he had purchased and subdivided was an abandoned tannery waste disposal site.  Oregon DEQ had declared the tannery down the road an “orphan” site years earlier when the corporation’s Directors declared insolvency and abandoned the manufacturing site, and the Department had failed to include the forty-year old disposal site in its databases because staff considered the waste to be non-hazardous at the time.  The tannery waste contains trivalent chromium, hexavalent chromium, mercury and lead in excess of applicable risk-based concentrations.  Read More…


Site Investigation

Environmental Compliance was called in by a heavy industrial manufacturer in NE Portland because the City of Portland had suggested that storm water from its property was a possible source of contamination in the Willamette River (aka the Portland Harbor Superfund site.)  Environmental Compliance oversaw a site investigation and maintained control over all reporting to ensure that findings were fully and accurately reported without any speculation or other unwarranted findings that could be difficult or impossible to dispute later.  The facility was eventually cleared of any liability for the release of hazardous substances to the nearby river.  Read More…


Stormwater Control

Environmental Compliance was retained by a food processing company to respond to a Notice of Violation and Penalty Assessment related to its storm water discharges.  We established at hearing that the Department had misrepresented some facts regarding storm water sampling and modifications to the facility and had over-reached in its penalty assessment (wrongfully claiming that several “minor” violations were “major”).  Upon decision by the Administrative Law Judge the penalty was reduced from $61,817 to $18,705 (with legal fees amounting to $6,232)  The manner in which DEQ and DOE arrive at their penalty assessments makes those decisions generally subject to challenge on review.  Environmental Compliance can often negotiate a greater than 50% reduction in penalties, but is always prepared to challenge an unfair penalty at hearing if Department officials remain unpersuaded.  Read More…


Hazardous Waste Management

The Washington Department of Ecology (“DOE”) wrongly accused a waste container recycling facility of operating without a required Treatment Storage or Disposal Facility permit for management of hazardous and dangerous waste.  Environmental Compliance defended against Ecology’s enforcement action by demonstrating that federal law pertaining to the management of “non-conforming” shipments of hazardous waste provided a basis for the client’s limited management of the waste pending arrangement for appropriate off-site disposal.  On another issue Environmental Compliance demonstrated that “designation as” a dangerous waste, as referenced in Washington rules, refers to the listings and characteristics set out in statute rather than (as Ecology argued) to the generator’s actual management decisions regarding the waste.  Read More…


Definition of Hazardous Waste

A Department of Environmental Quality inspector applied the “duck” test (“If it walks and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck”) to a vat of caustic sitting unused at an Oregon metal reclaiming facility.  Because the vat was sitting idle and the unheated caustic solution in the vat was a dirty solid, the Department inspector decided that the vat was an unpermitted hazardous waste management unit.  Environmental Compliance established that the unit was part of the manufacturing process (the “dirty” or “first” dip tank), that the caustic was not spent although much detritus had accumulated in the tank, and that there had been no decision to discard the caustic (which indeed continued to be reheated and used from time to time when particularly corroded or greasy parts arrived to be cleaned.)  Read More…


Leaking Underground Storage Tanks

Leaking petroleum underground storage tanks continue to be a problem in the Northwest, although with leak detection systems now universally required the problem is usually legacy pollution at older and former gasoline service station sites.  Old insurance policies (those issued before 1986) may be “triggered” by these legacy releases, but persuading insurers to honor their long-tail coverage can be difficult.  Environmental Compliance has a great track record of getting insurers to recognize their coverage obligations for these legacy releases and always works hard to ensure that “defending” insurers fully satisfy their coverage obligations.  We provide the same great service to homeowners with leaking heating oil tanks. Let us review your insurance policies and environmental reports.  For a minimal fee we can often devise a strategy for getting your cleanup funded by your insurers (or the insurers of prior owners and operators).  Read More…


Total Maximum Daily Loads

Environmental Compliance represents the oldest oyster grower in Tillamook Bay and has therefore been a leading advocate for improved water quality there for over 20 years. Our most recent efforts are focused on lowering the Total Maximum Daily Load (“TMDL”) for bacteria in the watershed.  Fully 1/3 of shellfish growing waters in the Bay were written off by the 2001 TMDL when the Department of Environmental Quality chose to base upstream water quality criteria on average salinity in the Bay rather than on the lowest salinity (and therefore lowest dilution) measured in shellfish growing waters.  Environmental Compliance is utilizing every available administrative, legislative and judicial forum to ensure that in the next decade shellfish growing waters in the Bay are protected as required by law.  Read More…