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United States v. Price

Citation: 11 ELR 21047
No. No. 80-4104, 523 F. Supp. 1055/17 ERC 1994/(D.N.J., 09/23/1981)

The district court denies the government's motion for a preliminary injunction in a suit seeking the cleanup of a hazardous waste disposal site, ruling that an order compelling defendants to study the leachate emanating from the landfill and to provide an alternate water supply to the owners of private, contaminated wells would not be an appropriate form of preliminary injunctive relief. The court notes that neither the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) nor the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) deprive the court of its traditional authority to balance equities when considering a request for injunctive relief. Moreover, the wells sought to be protected by the suit are not covered by the SDWA, which applies to public water supplies only. Next the court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion for summary judgment. The government has no cause of action under the federal common law of nuisance since the lawsuit involves intrastate pollution, an area that has been made the subject of comprehensive regulation under RCRA and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. However, defendants are not entitled to summary judgment with regard to the government's claims under § 7003 of RCRA. Though the provision is largely prospective in nature, it authorizes suits to end leakage from hazardous materials that were improperly disposed of in the past. The fact that some of the defendants recently sold their interest in the site does not relieve them of liability. For the same reasons defendants' motion to dismiss the SDWA claims is also denied.

[The federal common law issue raised in this opinion is analyzed at 11 ELR 10191; the pleadings in this case are summarized at ELR PEND. LIT. 65719 — Ed.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
William W. Robertson, U.S. Attorney; Charles J. Walsh, First Ass't U.S. Attorney; Michael V. Gilberti, Special Ass't U.S. Attorney
970 Broad St., Rm. 502, Newark NJ 07102
(201) 645-2155

Counsel for Defendants
John P. Hauch Jr., John L. Miller
Archer, Greiner & Read
One Centennial Sq., Haddonfield NJ 08033
(609) 795-2121