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United States v. Neskowin Enters., Inc.

Citation: 10 ELR 20622
No. No. 79-324, 14 ERC 1636/(D. Or., 06/11/1980) Civil penalties assessed

Granting the government's motion for summary judgment, the district court assesses a civil penalty of $26,400 against the corporate owners of a municipal water system for repeated "willful" violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The court finds that defendants' persistent failure to comply with reporting, monitoring, water quality maintenance, and public notification provisions of regulations promulgated under the SDWA constitute "willful violations" justifying imposition of a civil penalty under § 1414(b) of the Act. "Careless disregard" rather than "bad purpose" is the standard to be used in penalizing violations of health and safety laws. Prosecution for civil penalties is not rendered moot by the fact that defendants no longer own the system. The court refuses to allow defendants to raise a defense of selective enforcement; this is a civil action and deterrence is an acceptable justification for the imposition of civil penalties. The court rejects defendants' argument that the cost of compliance was prohibitive for a small system, noting that the legislative history reveals that Congress' primary concern in enacting the SDWA was protection of public health. Concluding that each violation created serious public health risks, exacerbated by defendants' "irresponsible attitude," the court imposes a penalty of $100 per day for each day a violation occurred.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Thomas C. Lee, Ass't U.S. Attorney
312 U.S. Courthouse, P.O. Box 71, Portland OR 97207
(503) 221-2101

Barbara Lither
Region X, Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Sixth Ave., Seattle WA 98101
(206) 442-1275

Robert D. Wasson, Dist. Attorney, Tillamook Cty.
P.O. Box 72, Tillamook OR 97141
(503) 842-5511

Counsel for Defendants
Herbert R. DeSelms
P.O. Box 254, Lincoln City OR 97367
(503) 994-2127

David A. Rhoten
Rhoten, Rhoten & Speerstra
300 Pioneer Trust Bldg., Salem OR 97301
(503) 364-6733