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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Coalition to address problem of illegal dumping on Proctor Creek

Atlanta readers are familiar with Proctor Creek, which runs through downtown Atlanta and up to the Chattahoochee. Proctor Creek has a watershed which encompasses 10,600 acres, which impacts a great many people. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Proctor Creek has serious environmental challenges, including high levels of bacteria from regular storm water flooding and sewage overflows.

Earlier this month, the City of Atlanta announced the implementation of a new program aimed at cleaning up Proctor Creek, monitoring water quality and the installation of green infrastructure. In addition, the program will The program is noteworthy because of the diverse groups involved in the effort, including city planners, private investors, and environmental nonprofit organizations. 

Two potential developments in EPA drinking water regulations

Michigan grabbed headlines earlier this year for the high levels of lead found in many of its drinking water systems. While the Environmental Protection Agency is constantly updating, developing and reviewing its regulations, this alarming incident has led to renewed interest in updating national regulations on drinking water.

Here are a few things the EPA is doing right now to develop and/or review regulations surrounding the drinking water contaminants lead, copper and chromium.

Toxic Substances Control Act enforcement and citizen suits, P.2

In our last post, we noted that ordinary citizens can help enforce the Toxic Substances Control Act, at least with respect to certain aspects of the law. One major limitation on citizen suits, though, is that the law does not allow citizens to file a civil action if the EPA has already filed and is diligently prosecuting a violation of the law.

Even when the EPA is already on top of a violation, though, citizens do have the ability to intervene in the case. In order to file a lawsuit against an entity found to be in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act, notice must first be given to the EPA and the facility which is allegedly violating the law. Other conditions and requirements apply as well, and it is important for plaintiffs to be aware of these when pursuing a citizen suit. 

Toxic Substances Control Act enforcement and citizen suits, P.1

We looked briefly at some of the changes made to the Toxic Substances Control Act in our last post. As we noted, those who are harmed by violations of the law, whether well-established provisions or the new ones, should know of their right to hold responsible parties accountable, at least in some certain circumstances.

The Environmental Protection Agency is, of course, the primary party to enforce federal environmental laws. States are not allowed to enforce the law unless they have “look alike laws,” and no states have taken steps to enact such measures. The EPA generally relies on two different tools to enforce the law. These are the Notice of Non-Compliance or Notice of Violation and the Federal Facilities Compliance Agreement. Typically, these tools are used in conjunction to get facilities back into compliance with the law. 

Federal law regulating toxic chemicals receives update, P.2

In our previous post, we began discussing the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, particularly with respect to recent updates to the law. As we noted, the primary purpose of the federal law is to regulate the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products and manufacturing. Under the recent update of the law, a number changes were made.

These changes include: a new requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency identify and protect populations which are particularly at risk for toxic chemical exposure. Such populations include children, the elderly, pregnant women and workers. The changes also require the EPA to identify the hazards of high-risk chemicals and, when appropriate regulate specific uses of individual chemicals. 

Federal law regulating toxic chemicals receives update

Chemical exposure is a daily reality for many people, particularly for those who work in industries which put them in frequent contact with chemicals. Even those of us who do not work in such environments face exposure, though, in our homes, in the food we eat, and in places we frequently on a daily and weekly basis.

Federal law, via the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, was an attempt to regulate public exposure to dangerous chemicals. The law, which is enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, imposes a number of rules, including: notification for new chemical substances prior to manufacture; routine testing of risky chemicals; monitoring of new uses for chemicals; certification reporting and other requirements. 

Enforcing the coal ash rule: work with experienced attorney to determine process

In recent posts, we’ve been looking at the topic of coal ash disposal and the potential threat to local environments and populations that can result from failure to abide by federal regulations. The federal coal ash rule establishes specific requirements landfills and surface impoundments, including things like: groundwater monitoring; liner requirements; contamination cleanup; closure of unlined surface impoundments; and restricting the location of new impoundments and landfills.

Federal law also establishes structural integrity requirements to protect against surface water contamination, requires assessments to protect against surface impoundment failure, and requires landfill and surface impoundment operators to develop plans to control against fugitive dust. There are other requirements as well.  

Duke study looks at water contamination from coal ash disposal sites

In our previous post, we began looking at the topic of vanadium toxicity, specifically in the context of a recent report that increased levels of the metal have been found at a landfill in South Georgia. As we noted, Georgia does not currently have a vanadium water quality standard, though neighboring North Carolina does.

North Carolina, of course, is home to Duke University, where a study was recently conducted which found that unlined ponds can cause consistent and lasting contamination—including vanadium contamination—to nearby surface water and groundwater. According to the study, the highest concentrations of metals and metalloids, including vanadium, were found in shallow wells near an old coal ash disposal site in the state of Tennessee. 

EPD to investigate elevated vanadium levels at landfill

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is reportedly looking into a landfill in South Georgia recently found to have an increase in levels of vanadium, a potentially toxic metal. Vanadium levels have reportedly been increasing since 2012 at the landfill, though the exact cause isn’t yet known.

Vanadium is a naturally occurring metal and is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. The metal is permitted by state regulators and doesn’t necessarily pose any threat to the environment when levels are low. Vanadium compounds are still considered toxic, though, and it is tracked by the state. Elevated levels can cause cancer and nerve damage in human populations, and concerns about environmental damage are increasing as well.

Looking at the role of expert testimony in toxic tort litigation, P.3

We’ve been looking in recent posts at the use of expert witnesses in toxic tort litigation. As we’ve noted, expert testimony can be critical to identifying and explaining the scientific and biological facts central to a case. Selecting an appropriate expert can help build up a case, but it is important to work with an expert who has a good record. 

Experts whose testimony has previously been excluded due to lack of reliability are carefully scrutinized by experienced attorneys to ensure the best possible testimony is available in a toxic tort case. For plaintiffs in toxic tort cases, it may be easier to work with an expert whose testimony or analysis has previously been excluded for lack of reliability. 

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