New York v. New Jersey
256 U.S. 296 (1921)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

New York v. New Jersey, 256 U.S. 296 (1921)

New York v. New Jersey

No. 2, Original

Argued November 8, 11, 12, 1918

Restored to docket for further argument March 10, 1919

Reargued January 25, 1921

Decided May 2, 1921

256 U.S. 296

Syllabus

New York brought this suit against New Jersey and the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners to enjoin the execution of a project to convey the sewage of the Passaic Valley through a sewer system and to discharge it into a part of New York Harbor known as the Upper New York Bay, the plaintiff alleging that the sewage would be carried by the currents and tides into the Hudson and East Rivers and be deposited on the bottom and shores of the Bay and upon and adjacent to the wharves and docks of New York City, and would so pollute the water as to render it a public nuisance, offensive and injurious to persons living near it or using it for bathing or for purposes of commerce, damaging to vessels using the waters, and so poisonous to fish and oysters in it as to render them unfit for food. The United States, intervening, opposed the plan as threatening, unnecessarily, obstruction of navigable channels, injury to the health of persons navigating the waters and of officials and employees at a navy yard, and damage to government property bordering on the Bay, but withdrew, without prejudice, upon the filing of a stipulation executed by its Attorney General, and by the defendant sewer commissioners acting under authority of an act of the New Jersey Legislature, agreeing upon a modification of the method proposed for purifying and dispersing the sewage, specifying the results that must be secured thereby or through requisite additional lawful arrangements, allowing the government full opportunity to inspect the workings of the sewer system and providing that compliance with the stipulation should be made a condition of any permit issued by the government for construction, maintenance or operation. The case having proceeded to final hearing between the original parties,

Held:

(1) That the right of New York to maintain such a suit on behalf of her citizens was clear, without regard to the precise location

Page 256 U. S. 297

of the boundary between the two states or to New York's claim of jurisdiction over the waters of New York Bay. P 256 U. S. 301.

(2) That the defendant Sewerage Commissioners constituted a statutory corporate agency of New Jersey whose acts and intentions in the premises must be treated as those of the state. P. 256 U. S. 302.

(3) That, if the conditions of the stipulation were realized and maintained, there could be no occasion for the injunction prayed for. P. 256 U. S. 305.

(4) That the stipulation was binding on New Jersey and the United States. P. 256 U. S. 307.

(5) That the evidence must be considered subject to the principle that, before this Court will exercise its extraordinary power to control the conduct of one state at the suit of another, the threatened invasion of rights must be of serious magnitude and established by clear and convincing evidence. P. 256 U. S. 309.

(6) That the evidence failed to prove that the proposed addition of sewage would cause increased damage to hulls of vessels or danger of air-borne disease to persons navigating or dwelling along the water, or (if treated as proposed in the stipulation) damage to persons bathing, or fish or oysters subsisting, in the water, additional to that attributable to existing discharge of sewage from New York City and its environs. P. 256 U. S. 309.

(7) That, as to the question remaining, the evidence failed to show with the requisite certainty that, even if treated only as specifically prescribed in the stipulation, the additional sewage would create a public nuisance by causing offensive odors, or unsightly deposits on the surface, or seriously add to the existing pollution, and that therefore and in view of improved methods of sewage treatment disclosed by the testimony and of the right of the government to stop the operation of the sewer if it caused pollution of the Bay, the injunction must be refused. P. 256 U. S. 310.

The court suggests that the problem involved in this case is one more likely to be wisely solved by cooperative study and by conference and mutual concession on the part of the states interested than by proceedings in any court. P. 256 U. S. 313.

Bill dismissed without prejudice.

This original case was first argued at the October Term of 1918, but, owing in part to the time that had then elapsed since the closing of the evidence, the Court found it necessary to direct the taking of additional testimony on certain specified points. See249 U. S. 249 U.S. 202. The

Page 256 U. S. 298

facts are reviewed in the opinion. No attempt is made to reproduce the arguments, which were mainly concerned with the matters of fact involved.

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