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District court decision enhances municipal protection against Superfund lawsuits.

Municipalities scored a victory last week when Judge Peter Dorsey of the U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn. ruled that 23 municipalities were not required to contribute toward the cleanup of toxic waste from two Connecticut landfills.

It is hoped that this ruling, if upheld on appeal, will shield municipalities from lawsuits by corporations seeking large contributions to help them pay for the cleanup of toxic waste from landfills, as required by Superfund, the nation' s hazardous waste cleanup law.

Judge Dorsey's decision was based. upon a determination that the corporations had not demonstrated that the municipal ities had disposed of hazardous waste in the landfills. He refused to find the municipalities liable for half of the $70 million hazardous waste cleanup simply because their trash included some products, like batteries, oven cleaners and house paint, that contain hazardous substances.

This decision, if followed elsewhere, will require corporations seeking contribution for cleanup from mumcipalities to prove that municipalities actually disposed of toxic waste in a landfill, rather than to argue that a small amount of household waste contains a hazardous substance. In this way, Judge Dorsey's opinion could provide tremendous financial relief for cities whose budgets are overburdened by litigation and hability costs resulting from Superfund cleanup suits involving millions of dollars.
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Author:Tabin, Barrie
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 3, 1994
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