A recent federal court decision found that an environmental contractor was not liable under RCRA simply because it hired a subcontractor that performed a wrongful act, even though the act resulted in the release of a hazardous substance into the environment.

In National Exchange Bank and Trust v. Petro-Chemical Systems, Inc., et al., 2012 WL 6020023 (E.D. Wisc. Dec. 3, 2012), a contractor, Petro-Chemical Systems, was hired to test the tightness of an underground fuel oil storage tank.  Petro-Chemical subcontracted this work to Tanknology, Inc.  Tanknology’s technician performed the test, which included disconnecting pipes to the furnace and reconnecting them.  An investigation showed that the piping from the tank was reconnected backwards, which the parties agreed led to a buildup of pressure that caused the seals on the pumps to fail.  Approximately 550 gallons of fuel oil spilled from the broken seals and entered into the basement.  Some of the fuel oil was suspected of having seeped into the soil below the basement.

To learn more, please read Bill Wagner's recent blog post on Commonground.