A federal court in California has ruled that the plaintiff owner of a shopping center in Pleasant Hill does not have to comply strictly with the notice requirements of RCR A to establish subject matter jurisdiction in a citizen suit alleging contamination of its property. Gregory Vill. Partners, L.P. v. Chevron USA, No. 11-1597 (N.D. Cal. 8/2/11). The court, however, dismissed a CERCL A claim without prejudice, holding that plaintiff failed to plead that a release occurred when defendant owned property adjacent to plaintiff’s property.

While conducting an investigation of soil and groundwater contamination allegedly resulting from the use and disposal of solvents by a dry cleaner at the shopping center, plaintiff found chlorinated solvents, including tetrachlorethylene (PCE ) and trichloroethylene (TCE ) as well as petroleum hydrocarbons. The plaintiff filed suit in April 2001 against Chevron, MB Enterprises and the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District seeking to recover the cost of cleaning up groundwater contamination at the shopping center.  

Defendant moved to dismiss the RCR A claim for insufficient notice and the CERCL A claim because “the complaint failed to allege facts supporting the conclusory allegation that Chevron owned or operated” the property when hazardous substances were disposed there. After dismissing the CERCL A claim, the court examined plaintiff’s RCR A notice letter, which failed to provide plaintiff’s address or telephone number, or provide precise “dates of violation” or the exact “activity alleged to constitute a violation.”

The court contrasted the notice requirements of the Clean Water Act (CW A), in which Congress directed EPA to promulgate regulations relating to the notice requirements of the CW A, with RCR A, in which Congress did not direct EPA to promulgate regulations relating to the notice requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 6972(b)(2)(A). Based on this analysis, the court concluded that while strict compliance with the CW A is a prerequisite to suit, Congress did not intend that the applicable RCR A regulations apply with the same force.