Pep Boys Dumped Oil For Decades, Calif. Landowner Says – By Kali Hays
Law360, New York (February 16, 2016, 4:00 PM ET) — The owner of a California strip mall on Thursday smacked Pep Boys and certain small businesses that formerly operated on the property with a federal suit to hold them responsible for $1 million in cleanup costs resulting from hazardous waste allegedly dumped at and around the site for decades.
Poltis Family LLC, which now owns a set of properties operated as a shopping center in Compton, claim Pep Boys: Manny Moe & Jack operated a car repair service on the property from 1961 to 1995 and regularly dumped motor oil and waste from hydraulic lifts on the property without cleanup efforts, a violation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act and the Hazardous Substance Account Act.
Subsequent businesses that owned and operated on the property after Pep Boys sold it include a dry cleaner and laundromat, which also allegedly dumped hazardous waste on site and which Polits purchased most of the property from in 2012 for $2 million.
Despite a positive preliminary environmental assessment of the site prior to the sale by Western Environment Engineers Co., which is also named as a defendant in the suit, Poltis said it was only months after the sale closed that it became clear that soil, particularly that around the former Pep Boys garage, was affected by oil and chemical waste dumping. An environmental consultation confirmed the problem.
“[Perchloroethylene] shallow soil vapor impacts affect the site in its entirety,” Poltis said in the Thursday complaint. “Based upon the results of the soil vapor investigation, groundwater impacts for PCE, [Trichloroethylene] and possibly Benzene are more likely than not.”
PCE is widely used as a solvent in dry cleaning, while TCE is a common degreaser for metal parts and an extraction solvent for oil and benzene is an organic component of crude oil but was long-used as an additive in gasoline.
Had Poltis known of the severe damage to the property, allegedly caused by the mishandling and dumping of the waste materials, it would not have purchased the site, according to the complaint.
Poltis said that it has already incurred costs related to the cleanup of the site required under California state law and by the Environmental Protection Agency and that the costs will continue as recovery efforts and groundwater decontamination at the property go forward.
Considering Pep Boys began polluting the site some 50 years ago and laundry services continued the legacy after 1995, Poltis asked the court to hold those parties responsible for cleanup efforts and costs going forward, along with reimbursement of any expenditures related to the dumping incurred thus far which allegedly exceed $1 million, according to the complaint.
The company is also seeking unspecified general and exemplary damages, along with interest and legal fees.
A representative of Pep Boys could not be reached Tuesday for comment and counsel for the company could not be determined.
Poltis Family is represented by Victor Otten and Kavita Tekchandan of Otten Law PC.
The case is Poltis Family LLC v. The Pep Boys et al, number 2:16-cv-01030, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
–Editing by Patricia K. Cole.Share