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Framingham's General Chem. to be Liable for Cleanup; Nuisance?

On Monday, the Framingham Board of Health voted to hold General Chemical Corp. legally responsible for cleaning up their hazardous waste facility that is scheduled to close within the next year, reports General Chemical is a New Jersey-based company that has operated its waste facility despite complaints regarding health concerns from the community for many years.

The 2-acre plant property is located in a densely populated area and is practically a stone's throw from Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, according to The vote put into place deadlines for General Chemical to submit plans for closing the plant, as well as new limitations on the operations of the plant while it winds down. One of these limitations is that the plant must stop all activity if strange odors or other nuisances are detected.

This raises the question of what exactly a nuisance is.

The most general definition of a nuisance is activity by another landowner that stops you from enjoying your property. This is not to be confused with trespassing, because a nuisance is an action on another piece of property that prohibits your enjoyment.

An easy example of nuisance is a neighbor that is continuously burning used tires in their driveway. Either because they think they are Ken Block, or because they really don't know how to properly dispose of tires.

Under the law of nuisance, you can sue your neighbor to stop doing this, or if it is a situation like General Chemical, a public official can sue on behalf of the community to stop a public nuisance. One of the defenses to a nuisance suit is if you have moved into an area zoned for the offensive activity, like a motor speedway.

Here, the Health Board has made what looks like a preemptive strike against General Chemical, voting to hold it liable before any nuisance or other hazard has occurred. It seems as though while there have been concerns, General Chemical has done well not to have any evacuation-size problems in its history.

Now with the plant closing, General Chemical must be sure to clean the area without causing any nuisance to Framingham residents, because the hazardous waste cleanup is sure to be costly, but adding litigation costs to that will be sure to jack up the price.

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