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Improper Defense

August 31, 1986

The central proposition of the Aug. 17 letter writer who defended Teledyne Ryan was that any company that admits it was involved in the dumping of toxic wastes at a dump site may be liable for 100% of the cleanup costs for the site.

That's because the United States has "deep pocket" liability laws for those who improperly dump hazardous waste in a dump site. The letter goes on to say that Teledyne Ryan's offer to assist further studies of contamination of Convair Lagoon should be accepted enthusiastically, including the rejected offer to develop alternate techniques for measuring PCB contamination.

More succinctly, get rid of the 100% legal liability rule and companies like Teledyne Ryan will be able to do more to solve the problem of cleaning up hazardous waste dump sites.

This is like a bank robber arguing after he's caught that more bank robbers would give back the money stolen if it wasn't illegal to rob banks.

There is no rational cause-and-effect relationship between the "100% liability" rule and the argument that there should be more studies and different methods used to measure the PCBs in the Convair Lagoon. The Convair Lagoon is not a dump site. It's unlawful to dump hazardous waste there, period. That's been the law since 1899. It would be more accurate to say that the Teledyne Ryan defender wants no 100% liability rule, tests that show it's somebody else's problem, and measurements that show the problem isn't that bad.

Moreover, the 100% "liability rule" is a misnomer. Any hazardous-waste polluter can join other responsible polluters who contributed to the problem and seek contributions so that all wrongdoers contribute to the cleanup costs in the same ratio as they contributed to the problem.

We need to enforce the law, not change it. It is because the law hasn't been enforced for the last six years that the PCB problem at Convair Lagoon has gotten worse. And the problem is certainly getting worse here and throughout the nation.

MICHAEL J. AGUIRRE

San Diego

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