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United States v. Dart Indus.

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 21084
Nos. No. 87-3130, 847 F.2d 144/27 ERC 2222/(4th Cir., 05/27/1988)

The court holds that the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control's (DHEC's) oversight and limited regulatory activities at a hazardous waste site do not make it an "owner or operator" under §107(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). After acquiring the Fort Lawn site from a bankrupt company, DHEC permitted various parties to store and dispose of wastes on the site until 1980, when the federal government conducted a cleanup action under CERCLA. The court holds that DHEC's activities do not make it an owner or operator under §107(a). DHEC's loose regulation and supervision of the site prior to bankruptcy and abandonment by processing waste storage applications, inspecting the site, and requiring proper transportation of wastes delivered to the site do not constitute direct control and management of activities at the facility under §101(20)(A). In addition, the court holds that DHEC falls within the provision in CERCLA §101(20)(D) exempting governmental units that acquire ownership through bankruptcy or abandonment. Allegations that DHEC failed to properly monitor and facilitate cleanup of the site do not make DHEC an owner or operator, and there is no evidence to indicate that DHEC actually caused or contributed to the release of hazardous wastes.

Counsel for Plaintiff
John Grimball
U.S. Attorney's Office
P.O. Box 2266, Columbia SC 29202
(803) 765-5483

Counsel for Defendant & Third Party Plaintiffs
Charles H. Tisdale
King & Spalding
25 Park Place NE, Atlanta GA 30303
(404) 572-4820

Counsel for Third Party Defendant
Jacquelyn S. Dickman
S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control
2600 Bull St., Columbia SC 29201
(803) 734-4880

Before HALL and ERVIN, Circuit Judges, and BRITT, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, sitting by designation.