Successfully Defending Environmental Law Case Against the City of Pomona, California

In June 2006, the U.S. District Court of Central California found in favor of Calsol, Inc. a chemical distribution company no longer in use, in a long-running environmental law case alleging chemical contamination on a site in the city of Pomona.

Foley & Mansfield LA Office Managing Partner Peter Langbord successfully defended Margaret Roff, former owner of Calsol, Inc. and a Rancho Cucamonga resident, against the city of Pomona, arguing that Roff did not contribute to an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health or environment.

The city of Pomona filed the lawsuit in 2005 and alleged that Calsol, Inc. spilled harmful chemicals into the ground and Roff failed to properly clean up the site in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In May of 1976, a trash truck driven by a Pomona city employee was hit by a train while trying to unsuccessfully cross the rail road tracks while the arm was down. Fragments of the truck hit an above-ground storage tank on Calsol’s site containing the chemical tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a solvent used in the dry-cleaning business. The impact ruptured the tank, causing 5,372 gallons of PCE to seep into the soil.

According to Langbord, “Roff believed, and the court agreed, that the city of Pomona failed to take responsibility for its own carelessness. Roff removed underground storage tanks and more than 500 tons of contaminated soil while she operated Calsol, Inc. Roff at all times complied with state and federal environmental laws, as the court found.”

The RCRA was passed in 1976 and was the first substantial effort by Congress to establish a regulatory structure for the management of solid and hazardous wastes. Although the RCRA is a federal statute, the power to implement the programs created to regulate and dispose of hazardous waste is pushed to the states to implement. The statute empowers municipalities with some guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to force polluters to clean up contaminated land.