A federal court in California has ruled that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is liable as an owner under CERCLA for remediation of contamination at a contractor-operated aeronautical manufacturing plant in San Diego. TDY Holdings, LLC v. United States, No. 07-787 (S.D. Cal. 7/15/11). The site, which DOD first leased to plaintiff in 1942, housed facilities that produced defense equipment used during World War II and subsequent conflicts. As a result of manufacturing activity at the site, it is now contaminated with chromium, chlorinated solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other hazardous substances. DOD owned the facility and equipment that plaintiff used to manufacture target drones, missiles, attack helicopters, jet fighters, and other defense-related equipment. According to plaintiff, solvents, coolants and hydraulic oils were discharged during day-to-day manufacturing activities at the site.

The Port of San Diego sued plaintiff in 2003 seeking cleanup costs under CERCLA. That case was settled in 2007. Plaintiff sued the federal government in April 2007, seeking the recovery of costs and alleging that DOD was intimately involved in operations at the site. The court granted plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment finding no genuine issue of material fact regarding whether DOD was a responsible party, as defined by CERCLA.