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United States v. Medley

Citation: 17 ELR 20297
No. No. 7:86-252-3, 25 ERC 1315/(D.S.C., 11/04/1986) Partial summary judgment on liability granted

On a motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of strict, joint, and several liability under § 107(a) of the comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the court holds that the owners of the Medley farm site in South Carolina, who accepted and disposed by commingling in unlined lagoons and storage areas hazardous wastes from numerous manufacturers, are jointly and severally liable to the United States for its past and future response costs. The court first holds that the federal government satisfied its prima facie burden under § 107(a) by showing that the Medley Farm site is a "facility" from which there has been a "release" of a "hazardous substance" which has caused the government to incur response "costs," and that the Medleys are "persons who presently own" or "owned or operated" the site at the time of the disposal, as those terms are defined in CERCLA. The court also holds that the mixing of wastes and storage in deteriorating and leaking 55- gallon drums constituted a release into the air and soil, as well as a threat of a future release of hazardous wastes. The court further holds that consistency or inconsistency with the National Contingency Plan (NCP) is not an element of whether the government has incurred response costs for the purposes of a motion for summary judgment. Consistency with the NCP relates only to the recoverability of various cost items, which the court holds is to be addressed during later proceedings. The court next rules that liability under CERCLA is strict, and where two or more persons have contributed to a single indivisible harm, liability is joint and several. The court then holds that the mixing of wastes in unlined lagoons, the use of unloading procedures that rupture storage drums, and the indiscriminate commingling of wastes constitutes a single, indivisible environmental harm that cannot be rationally apportioned among waste generators, site owners, and site operators, thereby rendering the owners jointly and severally liable.

[Related opinions appear at 17 ELR 20299 [July 1, 1986] [July 6, 1986].]

Counsel for Plaintiff
James D. McCoy, Ass't U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 10067, Greenville SC 29603
(803) 232-5646

Counsel for Defendants
Wade Weatherford Jr.
P.O. Box 41, Gaffney SC 29340
(803) 498-1500