Bill Seeks Liability Break for Waste Cleanup Firms

Times Staff Writer

Cities and resorts aren’t the only entities having trouble getting liability insurance these days.

Ten of the state’s top toxic waste cleanup firms face a loss of coverage that could slow or halt the cleanup of hazardous waste sites, according to state Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim).

To avert this, Seymour said he has introduced a bill that would make engineering or contracting firms liable for their own negligence, but not for that of others.

Without protection from liability for the work of others, “the most qualified and responsible firms” might not be able to receive insurance coverage and “will be reluctant to go ahead with the work,” Seymour said in a prepared statement.


Philip G. Hall, a vice president for the San Francisco engineering firm CH2MHill and spokesman for a coalition of the 10 firms, said all engineering companies that inspect toxic waste sites and those that clean up the sites will lose their insurance coverage this year because of the high liability risks associated with hazardous waste services.

Unless this liability is somehow limited, Hall said, it is “quite likely that cleanup of hazardous waste sites would not be accomplished as quickly or with as much expertise as possible.”

Hall’s firm, faced with the loss of its liability coverage this week, may bow out of the toxic waste cleanup field if no relief is forthcoming, Seymour said. The engineering firm is a frequent contractor for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess the extent of hazardous waste problems and investigate potential cleanup methods.