Environmental contamination is a serious problem throughout California. In fact, it's a serious problem throughout the nation. Not only does it pose dangerous health risks, but it has a decidedly negative impact on property values. One particular instance in which it becomes pointedly relevant is when government agencies are attempting to obtain a piece of private property by eminent domain.
In these situations, the government agency will be particularly concerned with possible soil contamination. If a property is believed to have soil contamination (or other environmental contaminations), the government agency involved will typically conduct contamination cleanup and deduct the expenses for the process from the value of the property. In the end, the property owner may end up receiving an offer for the property that is far less than the value they would expect according to current market value. To avoid this difficult (and potentially pricey) situation, it is best for property owners involved in eminent domain sales with government agencies to be heavily involved in the assessment of their property for potential contaminants. If the action of eminent domain is found to involve environmental contamination, the property owner should consult with an experienced southern California attorney to protect their own best interests and to discuss legal options.
When a government agency wishes to acquire a private property through the use of eminent domain there will typically be an environmental site assessment (ESA) completed prior to obtaining the property (through either condemnation or purchase). Conclusions based on the assessment will be used to help determine suitability of the property for the designated project, and the costs associated with acquisition (considering the expenses related to the environmental remediation). An accurate ESA is vital as it could lead to the agency looking elsewhere for property to suit their needs or the property owner could accept an offer on their property that is far below what it is actually worth.
On the other hand, if an assessment determines that contamination was caused by a public project on adjacent land, the property owner could have a case for inverse condemnation against the agency responsible.
If you own a southern California property that is facing acquisition by eminent domain and you believe there could be contamination issues to be addressed, make sure to contact one of the experienced real estate and eminent domain attorneys at The Law Office of Retz & Aldover LLP as soon as possible.