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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

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.

Company admits to breaking environmental law in Georgia

Some Environmental Protection Agency and Georgia Department of Natural Resources investigations end in more than just civil penalties. In some cases, violations of an environmental law result in criminal penalties. Individuals can end up spending time in prison, and companies can end up paying hefty fines.

It was discovered back in 2015 that two employees of a company that transports and stores hazardous waste for other companies illegally dumped a substantial amount of an ingredient for making mothballs (naphthalene) into the ground in a Georgia neighborhood. Serious health consequences could result from this chemical. Officials say that the area was cleaned up before any damage was done.

About the EPA's ROE for protecting the environment

What is an ROE? Georgia businesses and developers may need to know the answer to that question. It stands for the Report on the Environment done by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA compiles certain data on the environment as part of its ongoing mission of protecting the environment.

Information on ecological, health and human exposure trends become part of the ROE to help the EPA answer 23 questions believed vital to protecting the environment. Without the ROE, the agency would have difficulty determining whether it is succeeding in that mission. The information could also help with the need to continuously develop new priorities and strategies.

Dry cleaning and protecting the environment can go together

The Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state of Georgia have all issued regulations and cautions regarding the use of dry cleaning chemicals. Not only could they cause health issues for those exposed, but they can also harm the environment. That might make it odd to say that dry cleaning and protecting the environment can go together.

The primary harmful and toxic chemical used in traditional dry cleaning is perchloroethylene, which is commonly called perc. This chemical solvent eliminates many types of stains, which is why it has been used in dry cleaning for quite a long time. This fact has prompted many people over the decades to go with a "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" attitude toward the use of this toxic chemical.

Water pollution is an issue in many Georgia towns

With the advances in technology that have occurred in recent decades, ensuring that what comes out of the tap in every home in the country will not harm anyone should not be an issue. Unfortunately, that clear glass of water from the faucet could be deceptive. A recent study indicates that water pollution is an issue in no fewer than 30 water systems here in Georgia.

The Environmental Working Group conducted the study. It claims that these water systems have contaminants that have been known to cause developmental issues in children, cancer and pregnancy complications, along with other health conditions that could be serious. Part of the problem is that legal limits for these contaminants are often different from the health limits for them, which means that they may be in the water legally despite the potential harm to those who ingest them.

Common dry cleaning chemical could be hazardous to your health

Many Georgia residents take their clothes, winter coats and bed comforters, among other things, to the dry cleaner without thinking about the chemicals involved in the process. They simply count on dry cleaners to get out stains while cleaning their items. 

One of the chemicals commonly used in the process is perchloroethylene, or perc, which is a powerful solvent that removes numerous stains in dry cleaning. This can be good for business but bad for your health if enough of it gets released into the environment. 

Georgia Power accused of causing water pollution

At first, environmental groups supported Georgia Power's decision to close down 29 of its toxic ponds. Then, the Sierra Club notified the power plant that it plans to file a lawsuit alleging that violations of the federal Clean Water Act may cause dangerous water pollution. Part of the controversy arose because the Sierra Club claims that the power plant does not have the proper permits to remove the contaminated water from the ponds. 

The other part of the controversy surrounds the fact that removing the contaminated water may cause toxins and toxic metals such as arsenic and mercury to leech into the groundwater, which would end up in rivers and lakes. Apparently, the water at the bottom of the pond is more contaminated. Dredging it up could ultimately cause harm to wildlife and people in the area. 

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