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Voorhees, Township of v. New Jersey Dep't of Envtl. Protection

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 21191
Nos. A-108, 693 A.2d 97, (N.J., 05/15/1997)

The court holds that a town may recover under the New Jersey Sanitary Landfill Facility Closure and Contingency Fund Act costs it incurred cleaning up contamination from a closed landfill on property that it bought before passage of the Act. The court holds that the town is not an "owner" of the landfill under the Act. Although the town falls within the literal meaning of "owner," the statute is ambiguous and susceptible to more than one reasonable meaning. The Act's legislative history, language, and comprehensive statutory scheme establish that the legislature intended that the liability associated with improper closure and operation of landfills rest with those parties exercising ownership or control over the site during the landfill's operation and subsequent closure. The town never owned or operated the landfill and never took part in any closure activities. Thus, the court holds that the town is not liable for cleanup costs and is entitled to reimbursement for such costs from the Act's contingency fund.

Counsel for Petitioner
Eileen P. Kelly, Deputy Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
R.J. Hughes Justice Complex
25 Market St., CN-080, Trenton NJ 08625
(609) 292-4976

Counsel for Respondent
Richard M. Hluchan
Levin & Hluchan
1200 Laurel Oak Rd., Ste. 100, Voorhees NJ 08043
(609) 627-8555