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$________ Plaintiff town claims defendant contaminated a municipal well.

U.S. District Court, Massachusetts

The plaintiff municipality contended that the defendant gas station negligently released gasoline from its underground storage tanks, allowing contaminants to make their way into the plaintiff township’s water supply. The plaintiff maintained that it was forced to construct a new well as a result of the pollution caused by the defendant. The plaintiff brought an environmental action against the defendant seeking recovery of the costs of constructing of the new well. The defendant contended that it was not clear that the defendant was the source of the pollutants and further maintained that the plaintiff had planned to construct a new well before the contamination was discovered, therefore, the defendant should not be held responsible for the costs of the new well.

Gasoline releases occurred at two service stations approximately ________ feet from the plaintiff’s Well No. 1 in the mid-1980s and again in the early 1990s. The well, a source of drinking water for the town, was located downhill from the sources of the gasoline release. In ________, elevated levels of MTBE, a gasoline additive, were detected in the well. The Department of Environmental Protection ordered the town to use water from the well on an emergency basis only, even though the levels of MTBE were below safe drinking water standards. The plaintiff then closed the well and made plans to locate a new well to supply the town with drinking water from a separate aquifer. The plaintiff sought recovery of costs of developing the new well under G.L.c. 21E as a response to the release of contaminants by the defendant.

At mediation, the plaintiff presented testimony from a geological expert who stated that he had performed advanced chemical fingerprinting in order to identify the defendant as the source of the contaminants.

Further, the plaintiff’s expert testified that hydrogeological modeling showed that the composition of soils in the area and subsurface features showed that the migration of the pollutants led to the plaintiff’s well. The plaintiff’s expert also asserted that had the plaintiff not closed the well, continuing to draw from the well would have increased the levels of contamination in the water. The plaintiff’s geologist stated that the plaintiff’s actions were a reasonable and prudent remediation of the situation. The plaintiff also presented evidence that there was no immediate need to construct a new well had Well No. 1 not become contaminated. The plaintiff provided data indicating that the existing wells could adequately serve the population and that there was no plan to add a well prior to the pollution of Well No. 1.

@TITLEHD = DEFENDANTS’ CONTENTIONS The defendant argued that the well was located near a busy thoroughfare and hence it was possible that the source of the contamination was other than the defendant. Secondly, the defendant asserted that closing the well was unnecessary, as the level of pollutants never rose above safe drinking levels. The defendant also claimed that the plaintiff had available numerous less expensive means by which it could have ameliorated the problem other than drilling a new well. The defendant pointed out that remediation of the release site was nearly complete and the well would no longer be at risk and that a water treatment facility could have removed the contaminants from the well effectively and inexpensively. The defendant argued that the cost to build a new well was approximately $3.7 million whereas a water treatment facility would only cost between $________ and $________. The defendant alleged that the building of a new well was a previously planned project that the plaintiff was attempting to force the defendant to pay for.

The parties agreed to enter mediation following extensive discovery.

The matter settled in the amount of $1.6 million after one day of mediation.

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