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Vernon Village, Inc. v. Gottier

ELR Citation: 21 ELR 21186
Nos. Nos. H-88-48(JAC), -89-667(JAC), 755 F. Supp. 1142/32 ERC 1697/(D. Conn., 12/18/1990)

The court holds that the owners of a Connecticut trailer park are not liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), or state law to a park resident for damages resulting from the release of chromium chemicals into the park's water supply. The court first holds that the parties are not entitled to summary judgement of the plaintiff's Safe Drinking Water Act claim because there is sufficient confusion in the record to raise a genuine issue of material fact about the precise level of contamination in the defendant's water supply. Further, sufficient evidence exists to raise a genuine issue whether the defendants permitted the quantities of chromium and radionuclides in their drinking water to exceed the maximum contaminant levels allowed by regulation.

The court next holds that, in light of the reasoning of other courts and Congress' purpose in enacting CERCLA, the defendants are not owners of a "facility" within the meaning of CERCLA §101(9). The court also holds that RCRA does not apply to the defendants, because neither Congress nor the Environmental Protection Agency intended that a system of wells, pipes, and distribution tanks designed for the purpose of delivering drinking water to private citizens would be considered a "facility" within the meaning of RCRA. Further, the plaintiff has failed to present any evidence that, in this case, the chromium in the water supply presents an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment.

Exercising pendent jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state claims, the court holds that the defendants are not liable for either private or public nuisance, because the proximate cause of the alleged nuisance was the chromium leakage at a nearby industrial park. On the plaintiff's public nuisance claim, the court notes that the plaintiff also failed to demonstrate that drinking water from the defendants' water system is a right held by the general public. Finally, the court holds that the defendants' failure to test the water system is not conduct sufficient to give rise to a claim for battery.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
John L. Giuletti
314 Kelly Rd., Vernon CT 06066
(203) 644-0458

Counsel for Defendants
Suzanne M. Batchelor
Tarlow, Levy & Droney
74 Batterson Park Rd., P.O. Box 887, Farmington CT 06034
(203) 676-3000