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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Protecting the environment is the goal of Georgia's EPD

Everyone in Georgia deserves clean water, clean air and unpolluted land. The state's Environmental Protection Division is tasked with doing what it can to ensure that the environment is sustainable and healthy for its residents and those who visit here. In order to meet those goals, the agency is charged with several tasks aimed at protecting the environment.

First, the EPD searches for ways to resolve the environmental challenges facing Georgia and its residents. Furthermore, it applies Georgia's rules, policies and laws aimed at keeping the state's environment sustainable and protecting the health of the people here. In the performance of these duties, the agency attempts to carry out that duty in a fair, timely and consistent manner.

You need a partner in protecting the environment here in Georgia

Progress is often good for the economy and good for the residents of Georgia. What it has not traditionally been good for is the environment. Rapid expansion and development spawned numerous regulations and laws aimed at protecting the environment. Now, public and private enterprises alike may need some help making sure that they do not inadvertently violate federal or state environmental laws.

To give you some idea of why these laws are needed, the state of Georgia is number three in the nation in conversion of woodland and farmland into malls, subdivisions and other developments. Starting sometime in 1987, Atlanta began losing approximately 50 acres of tree cover per day to this expansion. This has occurred despite the fact that, of all the metropolitan areas in the country, Atlanta has the least dense population.

Seeking restitution for exposure to a toxic substance

Throughout daily life, Georgia residents are surrounded by potential hazards. Even though it may take years for any symptoms to present themselves, continuous exposure to a toxic substance could cause numerous health issues. For anyone who discovers that the origin of the illness is tied to that exposure, it may be possible to seek restitution by filing a toxic tort claim.

Most people experience the most exposure through work, at home or through products they purchased. Many medications also contain toxic substances that could make a medical condition worse instead of better. Some examples of widely used toxic substances include lead-based paint, asbestos and pesticides. Of course, this is by no means a complete list of the chemicals and other substances that many people are exposed to on a daily basis.

Georgia county fined for water pollution

Both the federal government and the state of Georgia have taken steps to protect the environment through the passage of several laws. One of those laws has to do with maintaining the cleanliness of the public waters. When a city, county or municipality violates those acts, it could face sanctions for water pollution.

For example, something went wrong in one Georgia county, and sewage ended up in more than one public waterway. The county was sanctioned for the spills and for failing to report all of the spills that occurred between the years of 2012 and 2016. The total amount of the fines reached $294,000, of which $147,500 was for not reporting all of the spills that occurred.

Toxins in Conasauga River spark lawsuits

Perhaps you are one of the many business owners who have taken advantage of the incentives to locate your project along the waterways of Georgia. The benefits of having water available may go beyond creating a breathtaking view. A ready source of water may be essential to manufacturing your product.

Of course, some manufacturers use water to dump their waste. Even those who don't pour pollutants into a river may be responsible for poor disposal methods that result in toxins finding their way into tributaries and underground water sources. Sometimes it is years before anyone realizes the level of danger some pollutants pose to citizens who rely on the water for personal use.

Land use issues and the concept of eminent domain

The landscape of Georgia's cities, towns and municipalities always seems to be changing. As the years go by, parcels of land are rezoned and redeveloped. This could mean that the state may attempt to enforce the right of eminent domain. This may be one of the most disturbing and upsetting land use issues for homeowners.

Eminent domain allows the government to take an individual's property for its own use. There are limitations to this power, however. The landowner must be fairly compensated for the property. More than likely, this does little to remove the emotions that accompany a government's enforcement of this right.

Environmental law, schools and asbestos

Like other states, many of Georgia's schools were built when asbestos was still widely used. This means that students, staff and teachers could end up at risk. School districts need to ensure that they follow all the requirements outlined in environmental law regarding asbestos.

In many cases, nothing will need to be done. School districts can remain within the EPA's regulations as long as they have management plans that meet the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency, take any necessary steps to eliminate or reduce the risks of asbestos, and conduct inspections (done by qualified individuals) of each school to identify materials that contain asbestos. Actions are needed when serious damage has occurred to an asbestos-containing material or when asbestos fibers or dust could be dispersed into the air due to renovations or demolition.

Keeping Georgia's coastal marshlands intact: The CMPA

Few people who live or visit here would deny that Georgia enjoys beautiful landscapes throughout the state. When it comes to protecting that beauty, local governments, real estate developers and others must adhere to federal and state regulations when it comes to the development and use of certain lands.

For instance, Georgia's marshlands contain delicate ecosystems that could easily be disrupted or destroyed without protection. Those ecosystems benefit the land, animals and humans. In an effort to halt, or at least slow, their destruction, the state legislature passed the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act back in the 1970s.

A brief look at the Safe Drinking Water Act, its enforcement, P.2

Previously, we began looking at enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act. As we noted, enforcement of the law occurs at several levels, including the EPA, state government, tribal governments and, in some cases, individual citizens.

Citizen enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act is limited two a couple potential situations. First, a citizen is able to pursue a civil suit against any federal agency that is in violation of any requirement under the law. The Safe Drinking Water act requires federal agencies to comply with a variety of safety drinking water requirements at the federal, state, interstate and local levels, and citizens can be a part of the enforcement effort. 

A brief look at the Safe Drinking Water Act, its enforcement, P.1

Previously, we began looking at a national report of drinking water quality which showed that Georgia is one of the worst states in terms of the number of violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. As we noted last time, the Safe Drinking Water Act is an important federal law regulating drinking water contaminants.

As part of implementing the law, the EPA maintains a table of contaminants and enforceable standards aimed at limiting the level of contaminants in drinking water. At present, around 100 contaminants found in drinking water are regulated, including metals, toxic chemicals and bacteria. These contaminants can cause various problems, from cancer to impaired brain functioning. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to review these standards at least one every six years, as well as any new scientific evidence regarding public health risks, to determine whether any changes are needed.  

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