According to a federal court in Tennessee, fear that contamination will pose a threat to public health or the environment is sufficient for standing in a citizen suit under RCRA. NRDC v. County of Dickson, No. 08-0229 (M.D.Tenn. 01/03/11). NRDC sued the county and city of Dickson, Tennessee, and several companies seeking an order requiring defendants to address alleged groundwater contamination at the Dickson landfill. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing, among other things, that plaintiff did not have standing to sue because no NRDC member who suffered “an injury in fact” was identified.
The court noted that plaintiff bears the burden of showing standing by demonstrating “an injury in fact that is concrete, particularized and actual or imminent rather than conjectural or hypothetical, fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct, and likely to be redressed by a favorable decision.” Defendant argued that the well water of the plaintiff’s only identified member had not tested positive for chemicals found at the landfill and that the plaintiff’s expert could not state whether there was a potential risk to the member’s well in the future. Defendant argued that plaintiff therefore could not establish standing.
The court rejected defendants’ argument, ruling that under RCRA, a citizen suit can be brought where the contamination “may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health or the environment.” 42 U.S.C. § 6972(a) (1)(B). Citing Friends of the Earth Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services (TOC) Inc., 120 S. Ct. 693 (2000), the court held that, based on the member’s fear that identified chemicals from the landfill will contaminate her well and the public water supply and that she refrains from taking her grandchildren wading in a nearby river because she suspects it is contaminated, the member adequately alleged injury in fact to her recreational and aesthetic enjoyment to establish standing.