Veltri v. New York State Office of the Comptroller
Citation: 41 ELR 20096
No. No. 509741, (N.Y. Sup. Ct. , 02/10/2011)
A New York appellate court held that a property owner who had no knowledge of a UST on his property when he purchased it and did nothing to contribute to the contamination is nevertheless strictly liable as a discharger and not entitled to reimbursement from the New York Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund. The property owner's liability as a discharger is not predicated on his status as a landowner but, rather, as the owner of the system from which the discharge occurred. Although the orphan tank was installed by an entity other than the property owner and he took steps in an attempt to remove all USTs from the property prior to purchasing it, it remains undisputed that the orphan tank remained in the ground when he purchased the property. Moreover, he bought the property in "as is" condition and failed to submit any proof that the transfer of the land did not include fixtures, and the record is otherwise devoid of any evidence that, as the title owner of the real estate, the property owner is not the owner of the orphan tank. As such, even though the property owner was "unaware of and did nothing to contribute to the contamination," he is strictly liable as a discharger and not entitled to reimbursement from the Fund. Alternatively, even if the contamination did not occur while the property owner was the owner, but was instead discharged from USTs that were removed prior to him taking title to the property, his claim for reimbursement was untimely.