Most businesses assume that if they don’t handle hazardous materials they have little risk for toxic waste spills. But as longtime Lommen Abdo client Dennis Diaz of BGD Companies found, an environmental disaster can strike any time. Even when the spill is not your fault, a prompt response can be the difference between a small cleanup effort and significant sanctions from the authorities.
Recently a misguided semi-truck driver took a wrong turn and found himself trapped in the cul-de-sac behind BGD Companies’ facility in Crystal. The driver tried to hop the curb bordering BGD Companies’ property and leave through their parking lot. But the truck’s fuel tank scraped the curb, immediately discharging ten gallons of diesel fuel onto Dennis’s parking lot and leaving another 40 gallons slowly dripping onto the pavement.
Petroleum spills of five gallons or more must be promptly reported to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Duty Officer. Further, state and federal law hold the landowner strictly liable for properly reporting and mitigating toxic spills. Failure to take prompt action can result in greater cleanup fees and sanctions. Property owners can’t rely on the at-fault parties to report and clean up toxic spills. The owner has to act immediately without relying on the party who caused the spill. The at-fault party is financially responsible for the cleanup cost, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
The MPCA suggests a five step response to environmental spills:
- Stop the spill.
- Contain and recover the spill.
- Collect the contaminated sorbent.
- Secure the waste.
- Dispose of the waste.
BGD Companies followed the MPCA’s recommendations. First the trucker called Diesel Minnesota, a mobile diesel mechanic to plug the leaking fuel tank. That stopped the immediate danger of a larger spill. Dennis then called the local fire department, who contained the spill with absorbent material. Finally, BGD contacted Wenk Engineering’s emergency response line to collect and dispose of the contaminated sorbent. Within two hours of the spill BGD was able to report to the MPCA that the spill had been mitigated. The MPCA directed no further action.
Lommen Abdo lawyer Mike Moline assisted Dennis with his response to the accident and presented the cleanup costs to the trucker’s insurance for payment. Lommen Abdo recommends that all businesses and property owners have a simple spill plan on hand with important phone numbers in case of an accident.
- MPCA: 651-649-5451 or 800-422-0798 (The MPCA duty officer can be contacted 24 hours a day. The MPCA will direct the company on how to respond.)
- Wenk Engineering’s Emergency Response Services: 800-368-8831.
- Diesel Minnesota: 651-697-1250.
- Safety-Kleen: 763-780-1332 (hazardous waste disposal company).