United States v. Aceto Agricultural Chemicals Corp.
872 F.2d 1373 (8th Cir. 1989)

  • Aidex operated a pesticide formulation facility in Iowa. They went bankrupt, leaving behind a facility that was contaminated with hazardous wastes.
    • At the facility, Aidex had mixed pesticides for eight pesticides manufacturers (including Aceto) for commercial sale. Aidex never owned the pesticides they mixed, they just performed a service for the pesticide manufacturers.
  • Iowa and EPA began cleaning up the site and sued the pesticide manufacturers to recover costs under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Recovery Act (CERCLA) 170(a)(3).
    • 107(a)(3) says that anyone who arranged for the disposal of hazardous substances can be held liable if they are improperly disposed of.
  • The Trial Court found Aceto and the other companies liable for $10M. They appealed.
    • Aceto argued that they just wanted their pesticides mixed and returned and had never intended for any materials to be disposed of, therefore they did not meet the definition of 107(a)(3). However, the Trial Court interpreted the Statute broadly.
      • Also, the mixing process was well known to generate hazardous wastes, so Aceto couldn't claim they didn't know what was going on.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court looked to the definition of 'disposal' in CERCLA and found that it includes spills and leaks. So even if Aceto didn't intend to have the pesticides dumped, they did accept liability for spills and leaks likely to occur from Aidex's mixing procedures.
    • The Court found that a broad reading of CERCLA was consistent with the goals of the Statute.
      • The Court looked to other similar cases, and found that other courts had also interpreted the Statute broadly.
  • Other courts have come to different conclusions, and have held that the words "arranged for" in 107(a)(3) imply intentional action, and that companies such as Aceto should not be held liable. Eventually the US Supreme Court will work this out.
    • See Amcast Industrial Corp. v. Detrex Corp. (2 F.3d 746 (7th Cir. 1993)).