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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Proposed environmental rules could present burden to ag industry in GA

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a number of new regulations aimed at reducing the occurrence of incidents connected to pesticide exposure among agricultural workers and those who handle pesticides. Included in the proposal were rules establishing a minimum age requirement of 16 for pesticide-handlers; off-limit buffer zones around fields treated with pesticides; training requirements for workers; and enhanced regulatory compliance rules.

While the rules all have the purpose of making things safer for workers—clearly a good thing—opponents say that the rules don’t add any significant protections and that they impose more legal hurdles for farmers by increasing workplace obligations and opening up the possibility that farmers will be sued by third parties in connection with the proposed regulations. Not to mention the costs of implementing the rules.

EPD defiantly awaiting decision on appeal regarding salt marsh buffers

In July, we wrote about a Georgia Court of Appeals decision which struck down a water buffer protocol established in April by the state Environmental Protection Division. The protocol essentially removed the requirement for 25-foot protective buffers around salt water marshes statewide. The decision, it appears, was not the end of the story.

Last month, Environmental Protection Division director Jud Turner, in disregard of the decision, issued an advisory message to counties and municipalities statewide that salt water marsh buffers are only required around state waters in some circumstances. The disregard is apparently due to the fact that the agency is in the process of appealing the Court of Appeals decision. The Georgia Supreme Court has not yet determined whether it will take the case, though.

BP challenges court decision that could lead to more penalties

It has been over four years since the BP oil disaster occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, and litigation in connection with the incident is still ongoing. The most recent development was a decision by a federal judge that the company acted with gross negligence and willful misconduct in the spill, a decision that could mean the company has to pay significantly more in penalties.

The suit itself was brought by the federal government and five states in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as numerous individuals and businesses which were harmed by the spill. The additional penalties fall under the federal Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge of contaminants into federal waters. BP has stated that it disagrees with the decision and is planning to appeal.

Cathedral in Buckhead deemed be in compliance with zoning rules

A dispute about whether the Archdiocese should be able to build a new rectory in a Buckhead neighborhood for the Cathedral of Christ the King. The Archdiocese apparently plans to build a 2,987-square-foot addition to an already existing home of 5,000 square feet. Construction on the property began at the beginning of June after a building permit was issued. Subsequently, two local attorneys filed an appeal asking for an injunction to end the work on the basis that the church failed to follow city zoning ordinances in its permit application.

The specific issue in the case was whether or not the extension qualified as a home. According to the attorneys who filed the suit and those who supported them, the church was not a home but an extension of the church and so required special-use permits. The church, for its part, argued that the extension was legally a single-family home and that therefore up to six unrelated people could live together in the building under the zoning code. A decision in favor of the church was ultimately issued at the end of July. 

Cathedral in Buckhead deemed be in compliance with zoning rules

A dispute about whether the Archdiocese should be able to build a new rectory in a Buckhead neighborhood for the Cathedral of Christ the King. The Archdiocese apparently plans to build a 2,987-square-foot addition to an already existing home of 5,000 square feet. Construction on the property began at the beginning of June after a building permit was issued. Subsequently, two local attorneys filed an appeal asking for an injunction to end the work on the basis that the church failed to follow city zoning ordinances in its permit application.

The specific issue in the case was whether or not the extension qualified as a home. According to the attorneys who filed the suit and those who supported them, the church was not a home but an extension of the church and so required special-use permits. The church, for its part, argued that the extension was legally a single-family home and that therefore up to six unrelated people could live together in the building under the zoning code. A decision in favor of the church was ultimately issued at the end of July.

Reports highlight inadequate attention to drinking-water contamination from fracking

The potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing with respect to water purity have become fairly well-known across the United States. Environmentalists, naturally, have called attention to the potential environmental impact of “fracking.” Even the federal government, though, has highlighted the dangers of fracking with respect to water contamination. Two recent reports, the result of a two-year audit conducted by the Government Accountability Office, found that the Environmental Protection Agency is not doing enough to protect drinking water supplies from fracking contamination.

The problem is particularly pronounced when it comes to the process of utilizing specific chemicals to directly mine for oil and natural gas. While other aspects of the fracking process are regulated and monitored by the EPA, direct production of oil and natural gas is exempt. Because gas production very often occurs at the same ground depth as that on which drinking-water aquifers reside, the potential for contamination is significant. 

Authorities work to clear out toxin which left Ohio residents without drinking water

Clean water is among the most precious of resources, and it is only when we find ourselves without it that we really appreciate this fact. Water contamination can have a serious impact not only on individuals, but on entire communities. This is residents in Toledo and small areas of southeastern Michigan have been finding out recently when a toxin was found in a treatment plant.

Because of the toxin, Governor John Kasich declared a state of emergency for several counties and called on the assistance of the National Guard to bring water to residents. In this case, boiling tap water was not an option since the contaminant in question becomes more potent with boiling.

Court of Appeals decision affirms protection for salt water marshes

Buffering is an important aspect of maintaining clean waterways. A buffer, as some readers may know, consists of a band of permanent vegetation around a stream or wetland which has the purpose of preventing erosion and filtering contamination from rainwater runoff, as well as purification of bacteria and pathogens. Protecting salt marshes from pollution is an important environmental goal, since they provide a rich habitat for wildlife and even support the state economy.

Under a state law passed in 1975, the Erosion and Sedimentation Act, various measures were implemented to support and protect salt marshes, including the establishment of 25-foot buffer zones around certain waters throughout the state. Up until recently, salt marshes were included among these protected waters. Earlier this year, though, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued a directive which effectively removed the requirement of a protective buffer for salt water marshes.

Ever wondered what contaminants are in your swimming hole?

Being that it is summertime, many readers are surely enjoying the warm weather on the beach from time to time. This is all well and good, but have you ever stopped to consider what is in the water at your favorite swimming hole? According to a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a fair amount of beaches across the United States do not stand up to safety standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the report, 10 percent of the water samples taken from various coastal and lake beaches are substandard. What types of contaminants may be found in these waters? Not only bacteria and viruses, which can lead to illnesses like the flu, infections and dysentery, but often also pollution caused by storm water runoff and sewer overflows. 

WA agency proposes cleanup plan for old Georgia-Pacific site

A 31-acre parcel of proper formerly owned by Georgia-Pacific Corp. is currently the subject of debate for officials at the Washington State Department of Ecology. The debate concerns how to clean up contaminated portions of the property. The department, it has been reported, is probably going to recommend spending around $5.7 million to cap and remove portions of the property exposed to toxic pollution. Sources say the contaminants include mercury and other metals, petroleum, dioxins/furans, and volatile organic compounds.

That plan, while expensive, is actually the most inexpensive option for restoring the property to a usable condition. The most expensive option, which would cost $91 million, proposes to remove and replace all contaminated soil up to 15-feet below the ground. The cheapest alternative for cleanup also calls for monitoring metal-contaminated groundwater to ensure metal levels keep going down and that it isn’t used for drinking. Other alternatives are available, but it is unlikely the agency will opt for them when all is said and done. 

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