News & Insights

Court Dismisses Cerlca Claims Against Church And Disposal Company

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York has held that Defendants responsible for dumping hazardous waste in a town park are not liable under CERCLA because they did not know of the hazardous nature of the material dumped.  Town of Islip v. Datre, 47 E.L.R. 20049 (E.D.N.Y. 2017). 

In 2013, a church pastor requested permission to replace and seed the topsoil of a park’s soccer fields at its own expense. The town commission granted the church permission. Sometime after church volunteers were seen spreading seed over most of the soccer field, a truck owned by a disposal company was seen dumping debris onto the field. The church ceased repairing the field. The dumping continued until it was discovered that one load had large boulders and broken glass.

After testing, the soil it was discovered that it contained asbestos and other harmful agents. The town sued the disposal company as “arrangers” and the church as an “owner or operator” under CERCLA for the dumping.

The Court concluded that for “arranger” liability to apply under CERCLA, the Complaint must allege that an arranger knew, or should have known, that the material in question was hazardous.  The Court dismissed the complaint  because the town did not allege facts that demonstrated that the “arrangers” knew or should have known about the hazardous nature of the debris.

The Court also found the Complaint failed to state a plausible claim against the Church defendants for “operator” liability because it did not allege the Church defendants exercised the requisite degree of control over the Park or the hazardous substances for such liability to apply.  The Court also found the church did not exercise enough control over the park to qualify as an “owner” under CERCLA.