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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Vets to receive supplemental disability benefits for water contamination

Last week, the Veterans’ Administration announced that over $2 billion will be used to provide disability benefits for veterans who were exposed to tainted water during their time at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina. The decision was made after it was determined that there was enough scientific and medical evidence to acknowledge a connection between contamination in the water and eight different medical conditions suffered by the veterans and family members.

The disability benefits will be made available, as a supplement to VA provided health care, to vets who were stationed at the base for at least 30 days in total between 1953 and 1987 and who meet diagnostic criteria. 

Looking at EPA regulation of PFASs and similar chemicals

We’ve been looking in recent posts at a study concerning the presence of toxic chemicals known as PFASs in public water supplies, noting that Georgia is among a group of states noted to have relatively high levels of these chemicals in its water supplies. As we noted, the EPA does regulate this group of chemicals.

There are a handful of federal laws which directly or indirectly regulate the use of PFASs. The Safe Drinking Water Act, for instance, regulates nearly 100 water contaminants and laid out a process for identifying and listing unregulated contaminants for potential data gathering and potential regulatory decision-making. Although the EPA currently has no regulations in place for PFASs and similar types of chemicals, it has taken several nonregulatory actions demonstrating that it is evaluating whether to issue such regulations. 

Harvard study finds Georgia water supplies may be relatively high in PFASs, P.2

Last time, we began looking at the topic of PFASs contamination of public water supplies. As we noted, there are various potential ways that PFASs can enter into water supplies other than industrial sites. Not surprisingly, these toxins show up more frequently in some states and locations than others.

According to the Harvard study we mentioned last time, Georgia is among a group of 13 states which account for a large percentage of PFASs detections across the United States. The study, which involved examination of 36,000 water samples across the United States, found that 75 percent of PFAS detections came from California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois. 

Harvard study finds Georgia water supplies may be relatively high in PFASs, P.1

In recent posts, we’ve looked a bit at the issue of water fluoridation and some of the legal aspects of the topic. As we noted, water fluoridation allowed on the belief that it is beneficial for public health, and the question of fluoride toxicity is largely dismissed, even if more researchers are questioning the practice.

The presence of toxins in public drinking water goes well beyond the fluoride discussion, of course. Most readers are familiar with the Flint crisis, which involved lead contamination of the public water supply and subsequent litigation. Another toxic substance sometimes found in public drinking water is collectively known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs.

Can water fluoridation be the target of toxic tort litigation? P.3

We’ve been looking in our last couple posts at the topic of water fluoridation, and whether water fluoridation can ever become the subject of toxic tort litigation. As we’ve noted, water fluoridation is legal, but it could be challenged on the basis of a municipality failing to follow the proper procedure related to water fluoridation.  

It is also possible that those who are harmed by over-fluoridation of the water supply could seek relief in court for their injuries. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the current maximum enforceable drinking water standard for fluoride is 4 mg/L. The EPA requires that communities in which water fluoridation exceeds that amount must notify the public. Failure to provide that notification, or negligently over-fluoridating the public water supply, could potentially become the subject of legal action. 

Can water fluoridation be the target of toxic tort litigation? P.2

In our previous post, we began looking at the issue of water fluoridation. As we noted, water fluoridation is largely unquestioned in the United States, even if certain studies have raised public health concerns about the practice.

The question, for citizens, is: what recourse is there for those who are routinely exposed to fluoride. The answer, unfortunately, is: not much, unless perhaps a harmful mistake is made with respect to water fluoridation. Different states regulate water fluoridation differently. Some states mandate water fluoridation, while other states only mandate a vote by the population or delegate the authority to make a decision about fluoridation to local governments or water quality agencies. 

Examining the costs associated with the Colonial Pipeline

If you have been following our blog, you've read about the protests organized by Savannah Riverkeeper to oppose Kinder Morgan's development of its Palmetto Pipeline. According to Oil & Gas Journal, the pipeline would have transported 167,000 barrels of refined oil products a day through the southern states. The 360-mile span of the pipeline was one reason the group resisted the project due to the possibility of oil spills that could occur in the event of a pipeline rupture. Citing concerns about the risks the pipeline would expose to clean drinking water, wildlife and the environment in South Carolina and Georgia, Savannah Riverkeeper was ultimately successful in its attempt to shut down the project because the Kinder Morgan decided to abandon its proposed plans.

While the organization helped to avert one oil spill, its representatives were on hand when another occurred this past October. After a September oil spill in Alabama, a pipeline repair crew was dispatched to fix a section of the Colonial Pipeline. During the course of the restoration, an excavation mistake led to a pipe rupture and an explosion that rocked the countryside. David Butler, leader of the Riverkeeper for the Cahaba in Alabama, was called in to test for water pollution in the waterways within the explosion's vicinity.

Can water fluoridation be the target of toxic tort litigation?

Water fluoridation is something most people don’t think about most of the time. We know that fluoride is placed in our water, but we give little thought to how it might be affecting us, other than that it is helping us to avoid dental cavities.

Those who are familiar with the world of online conspiracy theories know that the dangers of water fluoridation is not an uncommon topic of discussion. Proponents of the theory, such as Dr. Joseph Mercola, argue that fluoride added to municipal water supplies can negatively impact the endocrine system, that it can lead to diabetes and lower IQ, and that there is no evidence that water fluoridation results in fewer cavities. We won’t mention the darker aspects of the conspiracy.

Water pollution case settlement includes $1 million fund

Environmentalists and governments, including here in Georgia, appear to agree on the importance of enforcing clean water laws, including the federal Clean Water Act. In one locality, Duke Energy has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit by paying $1 million in compensation for water pollution that it caused. The company owned a coal-fired nuclear power plant that discharged toxic heavy metals and pollutants into a nearby lake.

Georgia and all states have their own state anti-pollution laws that work in conjunction with the Clean Water Act. State and federal agencies generally cooperate in at least coordinating their efforts. The lawsuit against Duke, which was filed in 2013 by several environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

Plaintiffs draw on environmental law in earthquake litigation

A little known environmental threat has come to the surface in another state, but the ominous message is one that must be kept in mind in Georgia as well. An earthquake that occurred there has been tied by scientists to ongoing corporate waste disposal practices in the area. A class action lawsuit has been filed there on behalf of residents who have been experiencing tremors for years. Recently, the area suffered a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, which has created a unique interchange between environmental law and earthquake occurrences.

Since the Sept. 3 earthquake, there have been at least 52 earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.5 or lower, according to published reports. The lawsuit that was filed is requesting relief for physical and emotional suffering endured by residents as a result of the earthquake and hundreds of tremors in recent years. The lawsuit lays the cause for the seismic activity directly on the shoulders of the local energy companies.

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