TAX VALUATION OF CONTAMINATED PROPERTY
Donald T. Morrison
Since 1970, there has been a flood of federal and state legislation relating to disposition of waste material. Accompanying this legislation has been a proliferation of regulations, many of which deal with clean up of properties contaminated with hazardous wastes. Federal regulation began defining hazardous wastes in 1980, and by 1991, thousands of compounds not previously thought to be hazardous, and thus disposed of haphazardly and innocently, were declared hazardous. Hazardous substances that had been deposited on land or included in buildings suddenly rendered the land or buildings "containmated" and triggered remedial legislation that sought to eliminate, neutralize, or otherwise cure the contamination and take to task those responsible for the it.
Because of the perceived hazards to human health and safety, the federal statutes dealt with hazardous waste deposits on land as a matter of strict liability. The Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986 hold all owners, operators, and generators of hazardous waste deposits jointly and severally liable regardless of fault.
States have followed with a variety of legislation and regulations directed at contaminated real estate. Some statutes, such as the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act, impose on landowners an affirmative obligation to clean their lands of contamination. Other statutes, such as the Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act (ECRA), mandate that no contaminated property may be sold until the contamination is remediated. Other states, such as Illinois, merely require an environmental disclosure as a part of real estate transfers.