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Solvent Manufacturers Liable for Cleanup Costs

Dry cleaners have been liable for contamination they caused for some time, but not the manufacturers of the solvents that caused the contamination.

Until now. The First Appellate District in San Francisco put an end to that exclusion. Under certain circumstances. Manufacturers and suppliers of dry-cleaning solvent equipment can be held liable for hazardous waste cleanup costs if their operating instructions recommended dumping the waste into the sewer system.

This suit was filed under powerful, but little-used legislation known as the Polanco Act. It allows redevelopment agencies to sue prior polluters for the cost of cleanup, plus attorneys fees.

The City of Modesto Redevelopment Agency successfully argued that the manufacturers and suppliers of the solvents and equipment instructed dry cleaners to dump chlorinated solvents into sewers failed to issue warnings or recalls on the solvents and equipment.

Expect more lawsuits and an appeal to follow. I'll be watching this one. Expect, too, that lawyers will now seek to expand this ruling to all manufacturers of solvents and other contaminants.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, June 08, 2004

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