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All Contributors to Superfund Site Are Liable
Description Appeals court reversed a lower court ruling that contributors to a Superfund site had to cross a "threshold" level of pollution contribution to be liable for recovery costs. Liability is imposed on all contributors; the court will allocate costs according to contribution levels and other equitable factors.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words CERCLA; Recovery Cost; Contribution; PRP; Liability
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A long portion of the Kalamazoo River is polluted with PCBs and is listed as a Superfund site under CERCLA. Paper mills located along the river were listed as potentially responsible parties (PRPs). The mills were joined by other companies to form the Kalamazoo River Study Group (KSRG), which investigated the environmental damage prior to recovery efforts. No parties have been adjudged legally liable for the contamination. KSRG sought to recover investigation expenses from the various companies that the KSRG study found to have added PCB to the river. Both Menahsa and Eaton, which have plants on the river identified as possible PCB sources, refused to contribute to cover KSRG expenses. KSRG sued. The district court held that firms found to have crossed the "threshold of significance standard" for contributing pollutants would have to contribute to cover KSRG expenses. It found that Menahsa and Eaton did not meet that standard and so did not have to contribute. KSRG appealed.
Decision Reversed. One discharge into a Superfund site is sufficient to support liability under CERCLA. There is no need for causation to be shown; that is, that a particular polluter caused particular problems. Even if Menasha and Eaton are small PCB contributors, they are liable and no threshold standard is used to determine that. "After liability has been determined, the district court may properly consider the causal link between each defendant's waste and the resulting environmental harm, along with other relevant equitable factors, in allocating response costs among the liable parties."
Citation Kalamazoo River Study Group v. Menasha Corp., 228 F.3d 648 (6th Cir., 2000)

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