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On July 19, 1993, the EPA notified Housewares that it was a potentially responsible party (PRP) with regard to the Antrim site.  The receipt of this notice does not establish actual liability.  See Montrose, supra, 913 P.2d at 904 (holding that receipt of a PRP letter was insufficient to defeat coverage under the “loss-in-progress” rule).  As its name suggests, this letter merely informed Housewares of its potential liability.  Id.  After receiving the PRP letter, Housewares agreed to remediate the site.  Then, on December 6, 1993, Housewares received a letter from the New Hampshire DES which informed Housewares that it was strictly liable under New Hampshire law for any cleanup involved at the Antrim site.10  Whereas the PRP letter informed Housewares of its potential liability, the DES letter established that Housewares, as the owner of the Antrim site, was strictly liable for the costs of the cleanup of that site.  

However, both CERCLA and the New Hampshire statutes allow a party to recover cleanup costs from another liable party.  42 U.S.C. 9606(b)(2), 42 U.S.C. 9613(f)(1), N.H. RSA 147-B:10.11  Thus, although Housewares was strictly liable for cleanup costs at the Antrim site, the extent to which it would have to bear the burden of the expense was

10  The pertinent portion of the letter read:

“Note that RSA 147-A:9 and RSA 147-B:10 assign strict liability for costs relating to the remediation of a contaminated site to any party that either directly or indirectly owns or controls activities at a facility where hazardous waste has been generated and improperly disposed.  Consequently, Chicago Cutlery Manufacturing, Inc. is responsible for costs incurred as a result of remediating site soil and groundwater to acceptable levels.  Note further that because the EPA has expended significant resources in preparing to initiate an EPA-lead removal action at the site, they have requested that the DES include repayment of those costs with remedial requirements at the site.  The DES will therefore be forwarding documentation of costs incurred by the EPA and expects Chicago Cutlery, Inc. to reimburse the EPA for their expenditures.”  Record at 373-374.

11  In fact, on October 29, 1996, Housewares settled a suit it had brought against David Hurlin, another PRP at the Antrim site.  In the settlement, Hurlin agreed to pay Housewares $350,000 toward cleanup costs at the site, and Housewares agreed to indemnify Hurlin against any further liability as a result of the cleanup efforts.  

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