Law360: Water Utility Beats CERCLA Claims Over Well Pumping

Glaser Weil client California Water Service Co. won a significant ruling when a federal judge ordered the dismissal of a dry cleaning business claim under CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act) based on the water utility having allegedly moved an existing plume of contamination by virtue of its groundwater pumping operations.

As reported by Law360, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii sided with client Cal Water in finding that the water utility may not be sued under CERCLA based on a “pumping theory” of liability whereby a plaintiff alleges that the force of groundwater pumping at a water well caused the spread of contamination in an aquifer.

The Court ruled that under such a theory, there is no allegation that a “disposal” occurred at the “facility” owned by Cal Water. Partner Gregory R. McClintock told Law360: “The significance is that historically people thought that water well operators were an easy target for CERCLA actions, and what this says is that merely moving contamination around in the groundwater through pumping action, because there’s no discarding involved, does not give rise to CERCLA liability."

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Click here to see the ruling.

Glaser Weil attorneys Aaron Allan, Gregory R. McClintock and Noah Perch-Ahern represented Cal Water.