Alternative Dispute Resolution Summary

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In Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), the informal dispute resolution process, each involved party mutually agrees to meet with a professional third party to constructively and efficiently resolve their dispute rather than go to court. Through ADR, the parties are encouraged to engage in negotiations that promptly lead to the resolution of their dispute. The most common forms of ADR are mediation and arbitration. Although ADR is usually conducted on a voluntary basis, sometimes the courts require it before the case is taken to court. Since the political and civil unrest in the 1960s, there has been a rapid growth of ADR in the United States. The new laws that protected individual rights and lack of tolerance for discrimination brought more people to lawsuits. The significant increase of lawsuits overloaded the court system with long delays. Mediation and arbitration became more popular as they alleviated some of the pressure on the court system. (Spangler, 2003) Today, ADR is used in several types of disputes in the United States. One example of successful conflict resolution involved the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NIBCO, Inc. This resulted in a $750,000 settlement in 1996. The dispute lasted over two years and was close to an administrative hearing and possible litigation. NIBCO is "a worldwide manufacturer of flow control products for residential, commercial construction, industrial, and irrigation markets." (NIBCO, Inc., 2007, 1) NIBCO's products are manufactured by pouring molten brass into sand molds. The sand is then contaminated with lead and cadmium leaching from the brass. At the facility in Nacogdoches, Texas, NIBCO added iron fillings to the sand and then disposed of it in a municipal landfill. Using the guidelines outlined in their toxicity characteristic leaching procedure, EPA determined that the sand was hazardous waste. EPA also concluded that NIBCO was in violation of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations since the sand was not treated with a permit. NIBCO disagreed. Their position stated that the sand's treatment was part of the manufacturing process and not a waste; therefore, the treated sand was not hazardous waste. Under authority of RCRA, EPA filed an administrative enforcement action seeking injunctive relief and a $2.2 million penalty from NIBCO. Both sides prepared their case for an administrative law judge. As the hearing date approached, NIBCO was willing to change their treatment and disposal procedures. However, both parties could not agree on a penalty amount. NIBCO suggested mediation in order to avoid expense and the uncertainty of a hearing outcome.

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