Contaminated Sites

The nation’s contaminated sites are the remnants of past waste handling and disposal practices.  Today, businesses and property owners can face liability and demands for costly clean-up activities of these locations and need advisors to develop strategic, cost-effective responses that manage risk and protect against liability. 


Our nationally recognized Contaminated Sites team consists of attorneys with scientific, regulatory and technical backgrounds. We deliver practical solutions aligned with our clients’ business objectives. We challenge regulators’ conclusions, assist with gap analyses, review risk assessments, and negotiate cost-effective remediation plans that minimize business disruption. Along the way, we foster constructive working relationships with regulators, public officials, tribes, environmental groups and other stakeholders to identify the common ground needed to succeed.

Our clients are businesses and property owners of industrial, chemical and other manufacturing sites; primary metals processors; distribution centers; wood products mills; mines; utilities; ports; refineries; and real estate developments. We advise on individual site strategies and have achieved significant success for clients in complex cases involving multiple parties. 

Our Services

Our work includes a broad range of contaminated sites, including National Priority List Superfund sites, state agency-led sites, multiparty landfills, regional drinking water sources, complex sediment sites, hazardous waste corrective action sites and mining sites. In the course of dealing with contaminated site conditions we negotiate with regulatory agencies, defend and prosecute cost-recovery litigation claims, defend related citizen suits and criminal actions, procure insurance coverage for claims, help structure sales or leases of contaminated properties, and evaluate and mitigate risk in corporate and real estate transactions.

Our team includes highly respected thought leaders who’ve helped shape site contamination laws and regulations in Idaho, Oregon and Washington—including provisions in Oregon law to facilitate insurance recovery for contaminated site claims.

  • CERCLA, RCRA and state cleanup law compliance, defense and remediation
  • Natural Resource Damage Assessments and defense
  • Tools for working with large PRP groups
  • Defense and prosecution of cost-recovery litigation under federal and state law
  • Tendering and procuring coverage under historic insurance policies for contaminated site claims and litigation against insurers
  • Representation in corporate and real estate transactions involving contaminated property, including transactional due diligence
  • Prospective Purchaser Agreement negotiations
  • Criminal defense
  • Citizen suit and toxic tort defense
  • Environmental release investigations

In transactions involving brownfields, our Contaminated Sites team develops and negotiates risk allocation terms and insurance provisions, and negotiates prospective purchaser agreements with federal and state agencies to provide protection from liability associated with future cleanup issues on the property. We also help strategize the financing of brownfields redevelopment projects through grants and other programs.

Sometimes contaminated site outcomes cannot avoid litigation or alternative dispute resolution involving liability, cost allocation, insurance coverage or other disputes. Our team represents claimants and defendants at the administrative agency level and through all state and federal judicial levels of appeal. Given our significant experience with toxic tort claims—and our understanding that they can arise out of contaminated sites cases—our team prepares proactively to defend against them.

  • Guided Ferguson Enterprises through a PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) contaminated site cleanup under the oversight of both the Oregon DEQ and EPA Region 10 to address contamination from a prior owner. We also advised the client regarding occupational health testing and compliance with a stormwater NPDES permit, provided real estate and land use planning advice, and filed insurance claims that recovered the costs of the cleanup work.
  • Assisted RestorCap (developer of natural resource damage assessment mitigation banks) in permitting the construction of its major Willamette River mitigation bank associated with the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, and negotiating a hazardous waste cleanup settlement with the Oregon DEQ for the mitigation site. We also provide strategic business advice regarding bank developments elsewhere in the United States and assist with investor relations.
  • Serve as national environmental counsel for a Fortune 500 food processing company. Our role includes compliance counseling, enforcement response, permitting and contaminated site management for numerous locations nationwide. We also provide regulatory updates and training presentations for the Environmental Health and Safety team. Stoel Rives is the sole Environmental Compliance Counsel law firm in the client’s legal network.
  • Drafted much of the 2003 and 2013 amendments to the Oregon Environmental Cleanup Assistance Act, ORS 465.475, et seq., clarifying procedures for obtaining insurance coverage of environmental claims in Oregon.
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