The Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) requires the person(s) who caused the contamination to clean it up. (RCW 70A.305, WAC 173-340) Any past or present involvement with a contaminated site could result in liability for cleanup. A "potentially liable person" can include:
- A current or past facility (property) owner or operator
- Anyone who arranged for disposal or treatment of hazardous substances at the site
- Anyone who transported hazardous substances for disposal or treatment at the site, unless the facility could legally receive the hazardous materials at the time of transport
- Anyone who sells a hazardous substance with written instructions for its use, and following the instructions results in contamination
Property owners often choose to do a cleanup (via the Voluntary Cleanup Program) due to:
- A situation that poses immediate and serious health risks.
- A desire to prevent impacts to adjacent property.
- The planned purchase or sale of the property.
- Plans to do a major remodel, building addition, or significant re-landscaping.
1. Review the Property Inspection Checklist for clues and evidence.
2. Clarify whether you're dealing with solid waste (garbage, junk, debris) or toxic/hazardous substances.
- Solid waste looks messy and may pose safety risks, but doesn't require cleanup under the Model Toxics Control Act. Your local city or county government is your best source of assistance for solid waste issues: Health Departments/Districts.
- Hazardous substance is any substance that — at a particular concentration (amount) — is harmful to human health, other living organisms, and the environment. The presence of toxic or hazardous substances is much more serious.
The type of cleanup varies greatly depending on the situation. Cleanups can range from simple and routine (like a small gas station spill) to large and complex (like those along the Lower Duwamish Waterway). Home and small business owners often choose to hire an environmental consulting firm to help complete a Voluntary Cleanup.
Find a qualified and reputable environmental or engineering contractor:
What contractors can do for you: Citizen's Guides to Cleanup Methods links to 21 fact sheets that describe common cleanup methods from activated carbon treatment to vertical engineered barriers. (Available in English and Spanish.)
What you can do with Ecology’s help: Check our Cleanup Options and Voluntary Cleanup Program pages.
What you can do yourself: Visit small spill cleanup guide for ideas.
Our role varies depending on your situation and the choices you make. We prefer to work cooperatively with people to achieve cleanup solutions.
Cleaning up contamination can be costly, and costs can vary greatly from one situation to the next. Some costs you might incur include:
- Voluntary Cleanup Program fees
- Cleanup contractor professional services costs
- Laboratory services costs (if you have environmental samples analyzed)
- Attorney costs and legal expenses (if you seek legal assistance)
- Permit fees (if any permits are required to do the cleanup work)
If you qualify, financial assistance may be available through:
Small business owners with registered heating oil tanks can visit Pollution Liability Insurance Agency. They have details about their commercial Underground Storage Tank program, including financial responsibility, reinsurance, loans, and grants.
Property owners may also try to recover costs from other liable parties (called "private right of action"). We suggest consulting an environmental attorney before pursuing this option.
If an environmental consultant or contractor is helping you, the contractor should dispose of the hazardous materials responsibly. Otherwise, consult: