United States v. Alcan Aluminum Corp.

964 F.2d 252 (1992)

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United States v. Alcan Aluminum Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
964 F.2d 252 (1992)

  • Written by Tammy Boggs, JD

Facts

For many years since the 1970s, the owner of an automobile-service company allowed liquid-waste-transport companies, including the Mahler Companies, to deposit oily liquid waste containing hazardous substances into a borehole located on the automobile-service company’s property. The borehole led directly into the Butler Tunnel Site (the site), which was an underground network of mines, tunnels, caverns, pools, and waterways that drained into a Pennsylvania river. Alcan Aluminum Corp. (Alcan) (defendant) manufactured aluminum ingots, and part of Alcan’s manufacturing process generated a used emulsion containing hazardous substances—copper, chromium, cadmium, lead, and zinc. Alcan filtered the used emulsion, but its filtering process was imperfect. According to Alcan, the filtered used emulsion contained lower levels of hazardous substances than naturally found in virgin oil. Between 1978 and 1979, through a contract with the Mahler Companies, Alcan disposed of around 35,000 gallons of used emulsion through the borehole into the site. In 1985, about 100,000 gallons of contaminated water were released from the site into the river, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) incurred significant response costs to contain the oily material. The government (plaintiff) filed a complaint against 20 parties, including Alcan (defendants), to recover its clean-up costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). As to Alcan, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the government, finding Alcan jointly and severally liable for clean-up costs. Alcan appealed, arguing that it did not release or cause a release of a “hazardous substance” under CERCLA or that its used emulsion was excluded from CERCLA liability as petroleum.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Greenberg, J.)

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