Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

United States v. Sheyenne Tooling & Manufacturing Co.

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20848
Nos. A3-05-110, 952 F. Supp. 1414/(D.N.D., 11/15/1906) liability

The court holds that a metal finishing plant that discharged pollutants into a publicly owned treatment works that flowed into an intermittently dry tributary violated the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA). The court first holds that the tributary into which the pollutants were discharged is a water of the United States. The government met its initial burden by offering a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' declaration that the tributary constituted a water of the United States. The plant failed to come forth with anything other than the bare assertion that it does not discharge into a water of the United States. The court next holds that the plant does not fit within the job-shop exception to metal finishing point source regulations. The only evidence offered to support the plant's position that its client owns any of the raw materials before their inclusion in a complete, finished product, is hearsay that would not be admissible at trial. The court next rejects the plant's argument that the level of pollutants reported in its monitoring and compliance reports submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may not accurately reflect actual discharges. A source may not later question its own reports as a method of avoiding liability, and such reports are considered admissions as to liability. The court also rejects, as a matter of law, the plant's assertion that it should have been directly notified by EPA of the existence, scope, and requirements of the FWPCA and accompanying regulations. Ignorance of the law is no defense. The court then holds that the plant is precluded from asserting the affirmative defense of laches, because this defense is not available to actions brought by the federal government. The court also holds that the plant has not pleaded sufficient facts to demonstrate an entitlement to a defense of equitable estoppel.

[A related opinion in this case is published at 27 ELR 20850.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
John T. Schneider, U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
219 U.S. CtHse.
655 First Ave. N., Fargo ND 58102
(701) 239-5671

Counsel for Defendant
John H. Moosbrugger
Moosbrugger, Ohlsen, Dvorak & Carter
219 Third St. S., Grand Forks ND 58201
(701) 775-8146