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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Georgia river faces significant challenges amidst water rights litigation, P.2

In our last post, we mentioned a recent report by nonprofit organization American Rivers which named the Chattahoochee River as among the most endangered rivers in the country. As we noted, pollution and excessive water use have contributed to the degradation of the river basin. Part of the problem is that there is an interstate debate over water use.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio recently weighed in on the debate when he criticized Georgia for overusing water from the river basin to supply the needs of the Atlanta metro. Rubio is apparently supporting legislation which would require the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia to come to a mutually acceptable agreement regarding water allocation. The bill would eliminate funding for the Army Corp of Engineers until such an agreement is reached. 

Georgia river faces significant challenges amidst water rights litigation, P.1

The Chattahoochee, that great river Alan Jackson crooned about, was recently listed as among the most endangered rivers in the nation. The finding was the result of an annual study by American Rivers. In its report, the nonprofit said the river basin and its native wildlife have suffered from years of mismanagement as well as excessive water use.

The report urged lawmakers in the three states through which the river runs—Alabama, Georgia, and Florida—to take action to ensure the sustainability of the river system, the survival of which is seriously threatened. Of particular concern is raising the river elevation in certain sections of the river. 

A brief look at how the zoning board weighs requests for variances

In our last post, we began speaking about the issue of zoning, and the importance of working with an experienced attorney when dealing with zoning matters. For businesses and real estate developers, one of the ways zoning issues can come up is when a variance or special exception needs to be requested.

Variances and special exceptions to zoning rules may only be granted when an application is properly submitted and specific criteria are met. The criteria for variances and special exceptions are different, and it is up to the applicant to demonstrate that a variance or exception should be granted. 

Looking at the City of Atlanta’s zoning arm

Earlier this month, the city of Alpharetta reportedly kicked off the process of making updates to its city-wide land use plan, asking citizens to get involved by attending public meetings and make their voices heard. The city is reportedly required to update its Comprehensive Land Use Plan every five years.

Atlanta, of course, has a similar plan in place, which is required by law to be updated every three to five years. The plan is intended to facilitate growth and development with respect to a variety of aspects of development, including population, natural resources, community facilities, transportation, and land use. The latter term includes standards pertaining to the classification of neighborhoods for development purposes, or zoning. 

Flint water crisis prompts litigation over excessive lead exposure

We have previously written on this blog about the Flint water crisis, noting the shakeup in the local government over the debacle. We also mentioned that the investigations that began in response to the incident, including an investigation by the EPA. In addition to the legal action that has already been taken, a lawsuit was recently filed in a federal court in Detroit seeking damages for Flint resident and property owners who have suffered both physical and economic injuries.

The plaintiffs named in the lawsuit include seven residents and a total of 17 children who were found to have increased levels of lead in their bodies as a result of the coverup. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are guilty of gross negligence, which would give them the right to sue under state law. Immunity does not apply in cases of gross negligence. In the suit, the plaintiffs seek damages for both past and future health care costs, among other things. 

Retain experienced counsel to navigate EPA hearings process

Last time, we spoke briefly about federal pesticide regulation, which is handled by both the FDA and the EPA. As we noted, the EPA can and does sometimes grant conditional approval for pesticides subject to ongoing research concerning the safety of the pesticide under consideration. An ongoing dispute between the EPA and Bayer CropScience involves the granting of conditional approval for a pesticide by the name of flubendiamide.

In the United States, the pesticide has been used on tobacco, pepper, almond, and watermelon crops. The EPA approved the pesticide on a conditional basis, and is now moving to cancel approval based on evidence that it accumulates in streams and lakes, which could cause it to harm freshwater wildlife. 

Federal regulation of pesticide use helps protect environment, public health

Chances are that most of our readers, at some point, have thought about whether it is worth their hard-earned money to spend more on organic food as opposed to the chemically treated stuff. For those who can afford it, organic produce can arguably be beneficial, but many people, of course, cannot.

Whatever your opinion on the organic food debate, federal laws and regulations do set minimum standards in terms of pesticides used in animal-derived products, as well as germicidal preparations used on inanimate objects, rodenticides and insecticides. These laws and regulations are enforced by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Work with experienced environmental law attorney in watershed management planning

In our last post, we made brief mention of watershed management planning in the context of our discussion of the potentially harmful effects of blue-green algae. As we noted, watershed planning can be a way for those adversely impacted by toxic blue-green algae to address one possible cause of the toxic growth.

Watershed management planning, according to the EPA, can be used to address a wide variety of environmental issues stemming from nonpoint source pollution. The latter term refers to pollution which comes from diffuse sources as a result of rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. Nonpoint source pollution is a significant problem, and actually is more of an issue than source point pollution. 

Testing shows significant number of streams in SE states have algae toxins

According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, a certain type of algae may be producing toxic byproducts in as much as 39 percent of the 75 streams tested in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. The research supports prior findings that 74 percent of streams assessed in the southeastern United States contained a blue-green algae which can produce the specific form of bacteria that manufactures harmful toxins.

The toxins produced by the algae can have adverse effects in humans such as nausea, dermatitis, and liver failure in particularly bad cases, but they can also negatively impact livestock and wildlife populations, affecting local ecosystems. Apparently, scientists and public health officials have expressed concern that the effects of the algae are becoming more widespread. 

Current legislative proposals could impact clean water availability in Georgia

In our last post, we spoke a bit about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the consequences of which have not entirely played out.  In view of the events in Flint, there is greater awareness of the threat of water contamination and the reality that governments do not always act in the best interests of citizens when it comes to exposure to toxins.

In a recent article, the Georgia River Network highlighted some of the current legislative efforts pertaining to clean water. One of the measures, which is supported by the network, seeks to replace confusing language in the Erosion and Sedimentation Act regarding the measurement of stream buffers, which are required under the law. The bill proposes that the measurement should be made according to the “ordinary high water mark” of streams. 

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