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Emhart Industries Inc. v. New England Container Co.

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20105
Nos. 06-cv-218, (D.R.I., 08/17/2017) (Smith, J.)

A district court held that an industrial chemical company is not liable for fines for refusing to comply with an administrative order under CERCLA. In an previous decision, the company was found jointly and severally liable for the release of dioxin at the Centredale Manor Restoration Project Superfund site in North Providence, Rhode Island. In 2012, EPA published a Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP) for the site, which included excavation and thin layer cover. In the PRAP, EPA determined that the site groundwater was a current and potential source of drinking water, despite the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's determination that it was not suitable for that use. The Agency also found that the contamination was a threat to fish and wildlife in the area. EPA made these determinations despite the fact that it recognized data gaps for source area groundwater, and ordered the company to perform the prescribed remedial actions. The company challenged the order, arguing that the Agency had not collected sufficient site-specific data to adequately characterize contamination at the site. The court held that EPA's classification of the groundwater was arbitrary and capricious, and that the company had a "good faith basis" to not comply with the EPA's administrative order and is therefore not subject to fines for non-compliance. The order was stayed until EPA can fix the deficiencies.