Got a call from an operator in Oklahoma the other day. He’s been named in a lawsuit brought by Union Pacific Railroad involving a Superfund site. The railroad was named one of the site’s major contributors by the Environmental Protection Agency, but as such has the power to ask for money from anyone who might have been associated with the site at any time in the past. Which even for a small used oil generator can turn into major dollars. (Paid subscribers should look up the article “Surviving the Superfund” in our archives; it sheds a lot more light on the issue.)
So what should you do in the event you receive this kind of notice? Like I told this operator, call the Automotive Oil Change Association immediately! Superfund is a hot-button issue for AOCA, which has worked tirelessly for more than a decade fighting for lube operators’ rights when it comes to Superfund cleanup sites. AOCA might not be able to completely absolve an operator of responsibility in a Superfund cleanup mess, but they’ve got years of experience minimizing the extent of that responsibility.
To many in the industry, Superfund is a flawed piece of legislation. Yes, environmentally damaged sites should be cleaned up. But should small business owners like lube operators really be liable for used oil they collected and sent for reprocessing years or even decades ago? Especially when they believed the used oil collector was a legitimate, environmentally conscious organization? It’s a touchy subject, one with no easy answers.