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Waste Management of Alameda County, Inc. v. East Bay Reg'l Park Dist.

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20559
Nos. C98-0433 TEH, 135 F. Supp. 2d 1071/(N.D. Cal., 03/20/2001)

The court holds that a waste management company is predominately responsible for leachate contamination at a municipal landfill site it covered and transferred to a park district and that the company's cleanup efforts failed to comply with the national contingency plan (NCP). Considering the economic benefit to the parties, the park district's knowledge of the risks and acceptance of responsibility, the cause of the leachate problems, the parties' conduct, and the public interest, the park district should be allocated 5% of the liability for past and future response costs incurred at the site. Although the park district is the current owner of the site and acquired the site for free, those factors are not determinative in assessing liability. Additionally, the agreements that transferred the property avoided the issue of long-term environmental responsibility, and did not shift that responsibility to the park district as the company alleged. Further, evidence of inadequate site maintenance by the park district does not demonstrate that poor maintenance was primarily at fault for the site's problems. Moreover, the company did not responsibly follow through with needed mitigation measures over the years, despite persistent signs of leachate problems at the site. Finally, the company is not entitled to cost recovery from the park district for cleanup costs already incurred because the cleanup did not comply with the NCP. The company failed to provide a meaningful opportunity for public participation in the cleanup decisions affecting the site.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (35 pp., ELR Order No. L-356).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Barry S. Sandals
Morrison & Foerster
425 Market St., San Francisco CA 94105
(415) 268-7000

Counsel for Defendant
John D. Fognani
Zevnik, Horton, Guibord, McGovern, Palmer & Fognani
555 17th St., 26th Fl., Denver CO 80202
(303) 382-6200