NJ Supreme Court Holds that Spill Act Recovery Requires Nexus Between Pollution and PRP
New Jersey Supreme Court Holds that Spill Act Recovery Requires Nexus Between Pollution and Potentially Responsible Party
On September 26, 2012 the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to seek damages from an alleged discharger under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act) without first establishing the necessary connection, or nexus, between the alleged discharge and the contamination at the specifically damaged site. The ruling, in Department of Environmental Protection v. Dimant, A-2-11, upheld the lower court findings that there existed insufficient evidence that a Bound Brook laundromat caused groundwater pollution in residential wells for which it was being sued for investigative and cleanup costs by the NJDEP. The defendant operated near the contaminated wells and had used PCE for 15 months, between 1987 and 1989. During a site inspection, the DEP noted an external pipe at the dry cleaner's premises which they observed to be dripping a liquid containing high levels of PCE onto the pavement. The NJDEP argued that this discharge was sufficient to connect the dry cleaner to the PCE-contaminated groundwater in the nearby wells. The Court rejected this argument. The unanimous court said that in order to obtain damages, authorized costs and other similar relief under the Spill Compensation and Control Act, "there must be shown a reasonable link between the discharge, the putative discharger, and the contamination at the specifically damaged site." The Court concluded that the NJDEP had not met its burden of proof and held that a real, not hypothetical, nexus must be shown to exist between the discharge of hazardous substances and the actual contamination at the specifically damaged site.
This case will assist those parties facing alleged Spill Act liability for which there is no demonstrated connection between an alleged discharge and the contamination at issue.
The Law Office of Christopher D. Hopkins, LLC. can assist clients with Spill Act liability and other environmental issues. Please see contact information below.
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