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Atlantic City Mun. Utils. Auth. v. Hunt

Citation: 17 ELR 20396
No. No. A-2481-84T7, 509 A.2d 225/210 N.J. Super. 76, (N.J. Super. Ct., 05/02/1986)

The court holds that the strict liability provision of the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (Act) applies prospectively and precludes recovery from the Act's compensation fund by third parties for pre-Act spills, but the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) may recover cleanup and removal costs for preenactment spills. In an action to recover cleanup costs from the state fund for the hazard posed by a dump site (Price's Landfill) located near wells operated by the plaintiff, the court holds that the strict liability provision allows DEP to clean up both pre- and post-Act discharges, and simultaneously to be reimbursed from the fund, although the provision originally applied only prospectively as to all parties seeking recovery from it. Third parties were not permitted to recover from the fund with respect to pre-Act spills so that fund revenues could be preserved and so that DEP would have greater power over the fund. Rejecting analogies to definitions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the court next holds that the Act's definition of discharge does not include hazardous substances that are disposed preenactment but that leach or migrate into the surrounding area after the date of enactment. The court construes a "discharge" to be limited to present spills or releases of hazardous or toxic substances into the air, land, or water. The definition does not include containers of waste placed in a dump site. The court holds that post-Act leaking and leaching of wastes that were dumped prior to the Act's passage are a "contamination," that are a result of disposal, but which are not a discharge.

[Related opinions appear at 11 ELR 21047, 12 ELR 21020, 13 ELR 20843, and 14 ELR 20501.]

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellant
Slap, Williams & Cuker
Suite 960, One Franklin Plaza, Philadelphia PA 19102
(215) 557-0099

Counsel for Defendant-Respondent
James J. Ciancia, Ass't Attorney General
Dept. of Law & Public Safety
8th Fl., Justice Complex, CN080, Trenton NJ 08625
(609) 292-8740

Before Judges KING, O'BRIEN and SIMPSON.