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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 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.