GA Chemical Spill Raises Long Term Liability Questions

On Saturday, August 13th, Smyrna, GA based Apollo Technologies leaked 2,000 gallons of a caustic automotive cleaning solvent into a Cobb County Creek. Caustic automotive solvent is a chemical used to clean and degrease various automotive engine parts. According to Apollo, the leak occurred at its plant located at 1850 South Cobb Industrial Blvd. While cleanup is underway and Apollo has suspended operations at the plant until a thorough investigation can be conducted, chemical spills of this nature raise long term questions about the harm to the environment, community members, and the surrounding properties that may be effected.

EPA Efforts and Environmental Liability

State and Federal regulations make it clear that Apollo is liable for the cleanup of the chemical spill. Under strict chemical spill reporting requirements, Apollo was under an immediate obligation to notify both State and Federal agencies, including the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), that a potentially harmful chemical had been released from its facility. Officials with the Cobb County Fire Department Hazardous Materials Unit have currently dammed the creek and are pumping the trapped water into holding tanks for proper disposal. After this is completed, government officials from the EPA will take soil samples of the surrounding banks to determine how much dirt and brush has been contaminated and what will need to be removed. Federal investigators from the EPA, in addition to private investigators hired by Apollo, will monitor every stage of the cleanup process in order to ensure as much of the harmful material has been removed as possible.

It’s likely that the cleanup effort will be a time consuming, and costly, process. Apollo will ultimately foot the bill for the cost of the cleanup, regardless of whether or not the accident was preventable. Consider these types of expenses part of the cost of doing business when a company handles dangerous chemicals. When a company manufactures, uses, or stores large quantities of potential environmental pollutants, it’s up to the business to pay to remediate (repair) the damage caused to the surrounding environment in the event something goes wrong.

Personal Injury and Property Damage

Liability for Apollo doesn’t stop at cleanup. At the outset of any chemical spill it may be difficult to determine the long term damage to surrounding properties and the impact on the health of those who live there. As early as Sunday, residents were reporting finding dead fish and other wildlife in the area surrounding the creek. Apollo advised residents to avoid the water and areas surrounding the contaminated site.

Similar to the laws regarding cleanup, Apollo may also be responsible to residents for the cost of soil and groundwater tests for surrounding residential properties, and the cost of addressing any resulting contamination. In other chemical spills, most notably the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, companies also had to compensate local businesses and homeowners for loss of value due to actual or perceived contamination. And while Apollo will definitely have to pay for any injuries that occur immediately, an experienced lawyer could also ask that a fund be established to pay for any health impacts to the community that may arise years in the future. Bottom line, if you are aware of environmental contamination from a chemical spill you should consult with a qualified attorney to discuss the implications to you and your family.