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Date: April 17, 2012
Contact: Anne Strong
Telephone: (301) 279-9697

History Associates’ Panel Presentation Addresses How Historical Research Can Impact the Outcome in Site Contamination Matters

A recent panel discussion featuring a historian, in-house and outside attorneys, and a regulatory official confirmed that historical research can impact the outcomes of complex sediment and groundwater contamination litigation. The panel, entitled “Identifying and Negotiating Cost Allocation Among Potentially Responsible Parties: History, Science, and Money,” was organized by participant Steve Swisdak, deputy director of litigation research at History Associates Incorporated, and presented at the American Bar Association’s 41st Annual Conference on Environmental Law on March 23.

Joining Mr. Swiskak on the panel were moderator Gerard A. Caron, attorney at Cabot Corporation in Boston, MA; speaker Kenneth W. Patterson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Site Remediation Enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.; and Kristin N. Reyna, attorney at Gordon & Rees, LLP in San Diego, CA.

The panel discussed scenarios in which attorneys should utilize historical and scientific research to inform parties of their potential liability and to develop appropriate cost allocations at complex soil and groundwater contamination sites. “Cleanup costs can be substantial,” noted Mr. Swisdak. “Having thorough historical knowledge of a site can help attorneys to identify the universe of potentially responsible parties.”   Ms. Reyna added that such knowledge can also inform attorney’s legal strategy, determining whether to negotiate a settlement or take the matter to court.   For his part, Mr. Caron noted that not having sufficient historical and scientific information can lead to bad outcomes, saying “the role of historical information to establish a context for these sites and specific site conditions has become indispensable.”

Mr. Patterson noted that the EPA welcomes research from all potentially responsible parties (PRPs), as this information helps EPA to speed up the settlement process, avoid third-party litigation, and facilitate third-party allocation efforts. However, Mr. Patterson cautioned that due to limited agency resources, EPA only searches for PRPs “to the extent practicable.” As a result, it is incumbent upon identified parties to provide information to EPA that could assist the agency in identifying other PRPs.

In conjunction with the presentation, Mr. Swisdak authored a paper that covers the use of historical research in such cases.   “The Value of Historical Research in Soil and Groundwater Contamination Matters” was made available to all conference attendees and can be downloaded from the History Associates website. Click here to download.

About History Associates
For more than thirty years the historians and archivists at History Associates have demonstrated that history is valuable in the market as well as the marketplace of ideas. They provide professional corporate histories, exhibit content, interpretive planning, historical research, archival services, and collections management services to clients throughout the United States and around the world. History Associates strives to be The Best Company in History®, serving corporate, government, legal, and nonprofit clients from its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. For more information, call (301) 279-9697 or visit

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