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United States v. Tyson

Citation: 17 ELR 20527
No. No. 84-2663, 25 ERC 1897/(E.D. Pa., 01/30/1987)

The court holds that the past and present owners of the Tyson's Lagoons dumpsite in Pennsylvania and companies that disposed of industrial wastes there are responsible parties (RPs) liable under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) § 107 for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) response costs incurred in cleaning up the site. The court initially finds that the dumpsite owners disposed of industrial wastes in unlined lagoons in violation of state and federal law and that no attempt had been made to acquire a permit to store, treat, or dispose of hazardous substances under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The court holds that General Devices, Inc., (GD) is liable for response costs as the current owner of the facility. Tyson's Lagoons is a facility, since hazardous substances were dumped at the site. The On-Scene Coordinator's report and remedial investigation report, which are admissible hearsay under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8)(C), show that hazardous substances have been released from the site through ground- and surface waters. Further, GD is a current owner under CERCLA § 107(a)(1). The court next holds that GD has not asserted a valid defense to liability under § 107. The court holds that GD is not an innocent landowner, that financial benefit from cleanup to the landowner, or lack of it, is not a relevant factor in determining RP status, that GD's de minimis liability is not a defense, and that GD's relative innocence is a "fairness" defense not relevant to assessing potential liability. The court holds that GD is not entitled to assert the third party/due care defense of § 107(b)(3) since the dumping occurred in connection with a direct contractual relationship with the waste generator, and GD did not take any precautions against the dumping of illegal hazardous wastes. The court holds that CERCLA's retroactive application to hold a landowner strictly liable for acts which occurred before the effective date of CERCLA does not violate due process because Congress did not act arbitrarily in enacting CERCLA. The court next holds that the individual who first owned and operated the dumpsite is liable based on stipulations of fact satisfying each requirement of § 107(a)(4). The court holds that another defendant, Ciba-Geigy, also stipulated to facts sufficient to hold it liable as an RP under § 107(a)(3) as a hazardous waste generator. The court holds that the retrospective application of liability does not violate the constitutional guarantees against retroactive and disproportionate punishment in the Ex Post Facto, Bill of Attainder, and Due Process Clauses. The court finally holds that several parties impleaded as third party defendants are RPs under § 107(a)(3) as waste generators whose wastes were disposed of at the Tyson's site from which there has been a release that has caused the incurrence of response costs.

[An EPA Record of Decision for the Tyson's Dump site is digested at ELR ADMIN. MAT. 30022.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
F. Henry Habicht II, Ass't Attorney General
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2701

Counsel for Defendants
Joseph A. Ciccitto
P.O. Box A, Collegeville PA 19426
(215) 489-6170

Bradford F. Whitman
Dechert, Price & Rhodes
3400 Center Sq. W., 1500 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19102
(215) 972-3400