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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

A brief look at Georgia water surface rights

Previously, we mentioned the favorable decision recently reached in the water dispute between Georgia and Florida concerning the use of water from the Apalachicola-Cattahoochee-Flint River Basin. As we noted last time, one of the challenges involved in the interstate water wars is that fundamental property rights are at stake.

The general rule of water use law in Georgia, if there could be said to be one, is the riparian rights doctrine. Under this doctrine, property owners are entitled to surface water which flows naturally across or by their land, and may make reasonable use of the water for domestic, manufacturing or agricultural purposes. Unreasonable use would be when the landowner uses the water in such a way as to harm other riparian owners, particularly those downstream. 

Georgia wins victory in water wars dispute with state of Florida

We’ve previously written on this blog about the water dispute between Georgia and Florida concerning water use caps. The basic dispute is that neighboring states have long held that Georgia uses an unfair amount of water from the Apalachicola-Cattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which threatens the economies of the other states. Florida had requested limitations on Georgia’s use of water, and that request was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

The case recently came to a conclusion of sorts when it was determined that Georgia’s use of water from the two rivers should not be subject to limitations, no matter what long-term consequences there might be for the state of Florida. That decision was reached after an attorney assigned by the Supreme Court to handle the case found that the state of Florida had not satisfactorily shown that a water use cap was necessary. 

Stockpiled tires are a nuisance and a danger

It is against the law in Georgia and most other states to dump tires. Nevertheless, people shamelessly drop their waste tires along the road and even onto private property. Others may allow tires to accumulate on their land or try to burn them. If you have a neighbor who has a stockpile of waste tires, you may be concerned about the environmental impact it is having on your neighborhood.

Executive orders lead to delay in effective date of updated Beryllium workplace safety rule

Occupational exposure to toxic chemicals is a serious issue, and companies are expected to abide by various regulations to ensure their workers’ are protected in accordance with current requirements and standards. Of course, companies don’t always comply with these rules and regulations, but even those who do may still be putting their employees at risk due to unknown toxicities.

An increase in knowledge about these unknown toxicities in the workplace can sometimes result in establishment of new standards, or modification of old standards. An example of the latter is a federal rule amending the standards for occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium-related compounds which was set to take effect this week. The amended set of standards, however, will now be delayed a couple months due to a set of executive orders issued by President Trump.  

Research suggests using easement to protect land from hydraulic fracturing contamination

In our last post, we began looking at a proposed change to state drilling law that would allow landowners’ to better protect their property from the natural gas drilling industry and local governments’ to better protect water supplies from the effects of hydraulic fracturing.

As we noted last time, it is important for landowners to understand how they can go about protecting their rights. This can be done not only through pursuing protections under government regulations, but also by making use of property law protections. According to recent research from Stanford University, one tool that could prove very useful for landowners looking to protect their property from fracking is the conservation easement. 

GA lawmakers look to update drilling law to better protect water, landowners

Most of Georgia’s natural gas reserves are in nine counties in Northwest Georgia. Over the past 10 years or so, there have only been several applications for drilling permits. None of those efforts has been successful, but lawmakers are looking to improve state law in order to be prepared for potential changes in the market.

Georgia lawmakers in the House of Representatives, led by Rep. John Meadows, are reportedly proposing changes aimed at balancing the right of the oil and gas industry to drill, the right of landowners to protect their property, and the public’s right to protection of drinking water supplies.

Glyphosate toxicity continues to cause concern, despite EPA’s permissive approach to regulation, P.2

Previously, we began discussing the topic of glyphosate toxicity and how the EPA regulates pesticides. As we noted, the EPA regulates pesticides by establishing and enforcing residue tolerance levels. As we’ve noted, many are concerned at present about the EPA’s stance on glyphosate, saying that the tolerance level is currently set to high and that consumers are therefore at risk.

One issue that is currently being probed in litigation that began last month in federal court in California is how much influence Monsanto—the company that produces the herbicide Roundup—has had over the EPA’s approach to regulating glyphosate. A group of over 50 plaintiffs are claiming that Monsanto has been sitting for decades on evidence that glyphosate increases cancer risks. The plaintiffs are claiming that family members developed non-Hodgin lymphoma after being exposed to Roundup.

Expecting the unexpected may help you avoid water problems

If you were born and raised in Savannah, Tybee Island or another Georgia region, or for that matter, anywhere in the United States, rancid, contaminated drinking water is not likely high on your list of worries. In fact, that's usually something people in the United States and Canada and other advanced countries tend to imagine when thinking of Third World populations around the globe. However, the crucial factor in something that's unexpected is that you were unable to prepare for it.

In recent years, there have been several serious water crises throughout the nation. Those who had always enjoyed fresh, clean drinking water were suddenly witnessing their children and loved ones becoming gravely ill, with many even dying. From extremely high lead levels to aggressive E. coli bacteria, several public water supplies were grossly contaminated, causing illness and deaths to great numbers of victims.

Glyphosate toxicity continues to cause concern, despite EPA’s permissive approach to regulation, P.1

The number of toxic chemicals the average American is exposed to on a regular basis would probably surprise many people. Toxic chemicals can be found in our food, in our water, in household cleaning chemicals and other household items, on the job, in consumer products, and in the air we breathe. Most of the time, the chemical exposure we get is relatively small. Even small, repeated exposure can add up to cause problems, though.

While federal regulators routinely monitor and enforce limitations on the use of certain chemicals known to be harmful, there are a lot of chemicals out there which can cause harm but which are not regulated, or at least not regulated very heavily. One of the chemicals that may fit into this category, depending on how you interpret the science, is glyphosate. 

Georgia Power denies allegations that power plant permits are expired

The Sierra Club and other environmental advocacy groups have reportedly filed a lawsuit against Georgia Power for allowing coal-fired power plants to operate with outdated permits. The groups are alleging that the agency failed to ensure that five different power plants were current on their permit. Some of the facilities, they say, failed to update for permits for more than a decade, and therefore were not in compliance with stricter federal water pollution rules.

The significance of the allegations is that failure to keep up-to-date with wastewater permits can result in the discharge of high levels of various toxins into water supplies, including mercury, arsenic, and various heavy metals. This obviously puts local animal and human populations at risk. 

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