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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Enforcing water quality standards help keep the public safe

Logically, you may know that this is a good thing, but when the Environmental Protection Agency or a Georgia environmental agency comes knocking on your door, you may not appreciate it. Alleged violations of water quality standards can be costly to your business. You may need someone in your corner to help you get through your dealings with these agencies in a way that keeps your business profitable.

What types of violations could you be accused of by either a Georgia environmental agency or the EPA? It depends on your business. If you run an animal operation, disposing of waste is a never-ending issue.

Do you have to report chemical exposure data to the EPA?

The Toxic Substances Control Act requires certain manufactures (whether here in Georgia or elsewhere), including those that import substances, to comply with the Chemical Data Reporting rule enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. This rule requires companies who produce and use large quantities of certain chemicals. The EPA compiles information related to chemical exposure. If your company is one that must be in compliance with this rule, it may help to understand what you need to do in order to avoid running into trouble with the EPA.

The EPA compiles data relating to the use and quantities of certain chemicals being manufactured or imported here in the United States. The aim is to help ensure that the public is protected from exposure to certain substances that may be toxic. If you use or produce more than 25,000 pounds of a qualifying toxic chemical each year, you are required to comply with the act and the rule. It should be noted that only 2,500 pounds per year of certain chemicals also requires reporting.

Make sure your project doesn't go extinct

Every new development project needs to comply with certain rules and regulations put forth by the federal or state government that apply to the project. Many of those issues revolve around the environment. Before you purchase the land you need, it would be advisable to be sure that it does not have any environmental issues.

With all of the environmental issues and acts that you need to keep track of, under both federal law and Georgia law, you may forget that you also need to make sure you don't violate the Endangered Species Act. This means potentially dealing with at least two more federal agencies: The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, which is under the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is under the Department of the Interior.

Efforts to keep water pollution at bay get recognized

The health of Georgia's environment is the responsibility of everyone. To that end, the Georgia Water Coalition recently recognized the efforts of the "Clean 13" to keep water pollution at bay. The coalition includes more than 240 organizations varying from hunting and fishing groups to conservation and environmental organizations to businesses and faith-based organizations that work to protect the waterways here in Georgia.

This year's honorees vary widely. Their projects range from solving the garbage problem in the state's waterways to designing and building a bridge designed to protect the habitat of endangered mussels and fish. The coalition created the list as a way to recognize their work and encourage others to come up with solutions either to keep the water clean or to clean it.

Land development may require an environmental assessment

The state of Georgia has taken steps designed to fiercely protect its beautiful landscape and waterways. This is why land development can no longer happen without some consideration for its impact on the environment. As such, it may be necessary to obtain an environmental assessment before any work can be done to develop a piece of land.

The assessment is designed to identify aspects of the project that could impact the environment. Once identified, it will need to be determined whether those affects can be mitigated. Thereafter, a determination will need to be made regarding whether the mitigation will be enough to nullify, or at least acceptably reduce, any negative impacts on the environment. This is not the same as an environmental survey, which identifies any existing issues already on the land.

Hurricanes exposed aging sewer infrastructure, systemic issues

Parts of Georgia received up to 10 inches of rain from Hurricane Irma. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that Brunswick got 5 inches. The National Weather Service says Glynn County received an average of over 9.4 inches.

In both Brunswick and Glynn County, residents noticed untreated sewage oozing out of manholes to join the flood water in the streets. Power outages contributed to the problem by shutting down the pumping stations that carry wastewater to treatment plants.

Land use issues and nuisance claims

Perhaps your family has owned property here in Georgia in the same place for several years (or generations) or you spent a significant amount of time choosing the site for your brick and mortar small business. Then a neighbor moves in and land use issues interfere with your enjoyment of your property. What can you do about it?

You may wonder whether there is any legal action you can take against your neighbor because the interference does not involve a physical intrusion on your property (trespassing). Instead, the intrusion is from some other source (nuisance). For example, an unpleasant odor could be wafting onto your property that cannot be ignored and makes it difficult to enjoy your property. Many modern farming operations create distinct and significant odors that create a nuisance to the residents and businesses near them.

Cutting down on chemical exposure through evaluation

The majority of Georgia business owners know how seriously the state and the federal government take the safety of the public and the environment. One way that is done is through the reduction or elimination of chemical exposure that could lead to illnesses or deaths. The Environmental Protection Agency evaluates potentially toxic substances to determine whether they are safe.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act outlines a three-part testing process. First, the EPA must determine the priority of the chemical. For instance, if it appears to have a low risk, it will be a low priority. Conversely, if it could be high risk, the chemical receives a high priority rating.

Flooding presents new water pollution concerns

Georgia and the rest of the nation have been closely watching the weather-related devastation that occurred and may yet occur during this hurricane season. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the impending and potential devastation of Hurricane Irma, many residents of the affected states could be facing a significant health crisis. Flooding tends to bring significant dangers with it when it comes to water pollution.

Part of the problem is due to chemicals and sewage that become part of the flood waters. Prolonged exposure to the waters (such as walking around in it) can cause rashes, boils and burning eyes and skin. Other ailments associated with the digestive system, such as diarrhea, could become widespread due to the ingestion of contaminants. Even the toys that children play with need to be sanitized first if they were exposed to flood waters at all.

When industries place your life at risk

There is much to love about Georgia, especially Atlanta and its surroundings. You may enjoy the food, music and history that draw people from all over. However, even these may pale in comparison to the sheer beauty of the state. Its abundance of trees, sprawling coastlines and natural waterways create breathtaking images, no matter the season.

Sadly, it is just that beauty that is constantly in peril as developers and businesses continue to misuse the natural resources, especially the waterways. Even more tragic is that people like you are suffering from devastating illnesses because of exposure to toxic substances these industries, particularly energy plants, release into the water systems.

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