CSG Law Alert: Leaking Sewers Cost City 50% of Dry Cleaner Site Cleanup Costs
Are you in a case where an on-site and off-site groundwater plume of dry-cleaning solution (perchloroethylene or PCE) or other hazardous substance is intersected by sewers through which the used and disposed solution flowed? If so, the case of Mission Linen Supply v. City of Visalia (2019 WL 446358) bears your close review.
Based on the facts and expert testimony adduced at the bench trial, the court determined that: 1) the sewers were installed by the City below general industry standards; 2) the City sewers had numerous defects including holes and broken pipes, cracks, separated joints, missing portions of pipes, root intrusion and other conditions; and, 3) PCE was released into the environment as a result of these defects.
Pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq.), the two dry cleaners who operated at the site and the City were found liable. In allocating the future cleanup costs, the court determined the equitable basis for allocation was the plume itself. The prior dry cleaners were responsible for the on-site costs and the City was responsible for the off-site costs “because the City’s defective/leaking pipes transported and spread the PCE beyond the property boundaries.” 50% of future costs were assigned to the City.
A review of this case’s Findings of Fact show what expert testimony and evidence is necessary to reach the result reached by this court. The case is also a warning to municipalities with sewer lines intersecting cleanup sites or what could become cleanup sites. Do not fail to regularly and properly maintain your sewer systems.