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Tri-Realty Co. v. Ursinus College

Citation: 43 ELR 20263
No. 11-5885, (E.D. Pa., 11/21/2013) (Pratter, J.)

A district court dismissed a property owner's OPA claims against a nearby college for land and water contamination allegedly caused by heating oil that leaked from USTs on the college campus. The property owner brought claims under the CWA, OPA, RCRA, and state law. Based on the language and legislative history of the CWA, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715, 36 ELR 20116 (2006), the court held that Congress did not intend either the CWA or OPA to extend federal regulatory authority over groundwater, regardless of whether that groundwater is eventually or somehow "hydrologically connected" to navigable surface waters surface waters. Here, the owner failed to allege a discharge of oil into or upon navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. The court, therefore, dismissed the OPA claim. But the court denied the motion to dismiss the CWA claim. The owner alleged that pollutants from the groundwater contamination reached the navigable waters of a creek via stormwater runoff collected and channeled through a stormwater pipe. Accordingly, the owner adequately alleged the addition of a pollutant to "navigable waters" from a "point source" under the CWA. With respect to the RCRA claim, given the extent and nature of evidence, the court converted the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, and held that claim in abeyance pending the parties' submission of additional evidence and/or supplemental briefing. And the motion to dismiss the remaining state law claims will remain extant pending the court's summary judgment decision on the RCRA and CWA claims.