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Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases

Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Methods and Cases


III. Natural Resource Damages: Cases A. Tulalip Landfill Superfund (CERCLA) Site Site: The site is a 147-acre landfill on North Ebey Island in the delta of the Snohomish River, north of Seattle, Washington. The island was a relatively undisturbed wetland owned by the Tulalip Indian Tribe before the Tribe leased the land to the Seattle Disposal Company for use as a landfill. Release: Insufficient grading of the soil covering the landfill permitted rainwater to penetrate the landfill and create a pool of contaminated groundwater (leachate) in the landfill. The leachate seeped both into the surrounding wetlands and into the groundwater below. Mixed commercial and industrial wastes were released into the landfill. The contaminants consisted of: benzo (a) anthracine; benzo (a) pyrene; chrysene; fluorine; naphthalene; pyrene and several others. Metals found at the site include: arsenic, lead, and chromium. Three to four million tons of waste was deposited at the site between 1964 and 1979. Injury: Groundwater, wetland water, and slough water near the site all contained heavy metals in excess of the EPA maximum under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The leachate leaving the site exceeded water quality criteria for a number of pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants. The contaminated resources were the habitat for many species of animal, including the bald eagle and the stellar (northern) sea lion, both of which are considered threatened under State and Federal law. The contamination at the site spread to surrounding wetlands, tidal mudflats, and the Snohomish River. Attachment of Liability: CERCLA permits NRDs here because there was a “release” of “hazardous substances” that resulted in injury to natural resources. Trustees: • Tulalip Tribes of Washington, the current owner/operator of the site who leased it to Seattle Disposal Company • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration • The State of Washington • The United States Department of the Interior. Potentially Responsible Parties: There were a large number of PRPs, including the current owner/operator of the site, several former owner/operators, several arrangers for disposal or treatment, and also transporters of the hazardous substances. Some of the more heavily involved parties are: • Seattle Disposal Company, a former owner/operator of the site and a transporter of hazardous substances to the site. • Rubatino Refuse Removal, Inc., a transporter of hazardous substances to the site. • Entities now under Washington Waste Hauling Inc., transporters of hazardous substances to the site. 91

Damages: The trustees calculated the total damages associated with the injury as the amount of money necessary to engage in a cost-effective plan to “restore, replace, rehabilitate, or acquire the equivalent” of the habitat services of the 147 acres of wetlands that comprised the area of the landfill itself. In order to decide how large the restoration project needed to be, the trustees used habitat equivalency analysis. Their conclusion was that 290 to 360 acres would be needed to replace the habitat services of the 147 acres of Category 1 wetlands from 1980 through project completion. This approach was conservative in two ways: • It did not take into account damage to the resources surrounding the landfill. • It used a conservative replacement ratio. Washington State uses a wetlands model that recommends a replacement ratio of six acres for every one acre injured. A previous project near the Tulalip site used a replacement ratio of three to one. Available documentation does not explain how the trustees calculated the cost of their desired restoration project. Settlement: Five separate consent decrees have been reached, totaling more than $1.85 million. Most of the settlements to date have been with parties with de minimis involvement. Other settlements are expected in the future. The money will be used to fund a restoration project that will involve a combination of various strategies, including creating and restoring habitats, enhancing existing habitats, and taking actions to restore specific species that had been harmed. Restoration plans do not include the construction of hatcheries. References U.S. Department of the Interior, State of Washington, Department of Ecology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Tulalip Tribes of Washington. 1997. Draft Programmatic Natural Resources Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Tulalip Landfill CERCLA Site. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2002. NPL Site Narrative Listing. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2001. Tulalip Landfill Superfund Site., last updated October 10, 2001. 92

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