Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2009

Case 10 - Historic pollution

from Part A - Scope of liable persons


A is the operator of a site for the permanent deposit of waste. After more than 30 years of site operation, all the vegetables planted in the neighbouring area suddenly turn black. Chemical analyses show that the plants and the groundwater used for watering the plants are heavily contaminated by borax. Hydrological experts demonstrate that A's waste disposal site is the source of the contamination. According to A's records, borax had only been deposited on the site during the first 3 years of site operation. At that time, the site had been operated by company C, still currently an important borax producer, who had sold the site to A more than 30 years ago. Who is liable?

Comparative remarks


Regulations on the statute of limitations vary considerably. In Austria, liability claims become statute-barred after three years from the point in time when the injured party learns of the existence of the damage and the identity of the liable person (§ 1489 ABGB). With regard to criminal offences punishable by more than one year of imprisonment, the statutory limitation period is thirty years from the date when the damage occurred. The same prescription period applies, in any event, even if the injured person did not know either of the damage or of the identity of the liable person. In Germany, the prescription period for property damage is ten years, or thirty years with respect to personal injury (§ 199(2) BGB).

Related content

Powered by UNSILO