Owner held responsible for cleanup of N.H. contaminated site

By Bryan Cohen | Aug 20, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline) - Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced two court rulings on Monday that he says will help clean up a contaminated former dry cleaning site in Hartford.

Washington County Superior Court ruled last week that Richard Daniels, the owner of the contaminated site, may not avoid his responsibilities by transferring the property to a real estate holding company with no assets. Daniels allegedly transferred the contaminated property to Hazen Street Holdings Inc. in 2006 in an effort to avoid liability for hazardous waste left there by multiple dry cleaning operations.

The court found that Daniels is responsible for the cleanup and additional court proceedings will be needed to determine specific cleanup actions and the amount of reimbursement.

“Rather than cleaning up the site, this property owner set up a shell corporation to try to avoid his legal duties, and the court appropriately stepped in and said that’s not allowed,” Sorrell said. “Instead of trying to avoid paying for cleanup, the owners of contaminated sites should work with state authorities to protect human health and the environment."

The Hartford site was first used for a dry cleaning business in the late 1970s and employed the use of perchloroethylene (PERC), which was later found to be a hazardous material. The site and nearby properties remain contaminated with high levels of PERC, which presents a potential threat to human health and the environment.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has looked into and cleaned up the site for many years. Earlier this year, the court approved a settlement which required a former operator of the dry cleaning business to pay $100,000 toward the cleanup and attorney costs.

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