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Feeling Woozy?

If it's from the toxins, call a doctor. If it's from inheriting someone else's mess, help is coming.

This story appears in the August 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It's not often a new law is cheered by so many partiesnormally in conflict. But the Small Business Liability Relief andBrownfields Revitalization Act, signed into law in January, issomething small-business groups, environmentalists, developers andadvocates for the inner city can all agree on. Focusing oncommercial and industrial land contaminated by toxins, the new lawoverhauls some troubling aspects of CERCLA (The ComprehensiveEnvironmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act), the 1980law that created the Superfund.

Under CERCLA, the EPA identifies sites, cleans them up, andseeks reimbursement from those responsible for the mess. Theproblem is old commercial and industrial sites may have changedhands many times, and the EPA was allowed to exact the entire costof cleanup from any of the parties involved: whoever created theproblem, the owner at the time of contamination, thelender who financed the purchase of the property, or, easiest tofind, the current owner, who may have had nothing to do with it.Then the parties fight it out in the courts. The nightmare oflawsuits and counter- typically drags on for years.

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