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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

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. 

Looking at the role of expert testimony in toxic tort litigation, P.2

Last time, we began looking at the use of expert testimony in toxic tort litigation. As we noted, expert testimony may be necessary to establish the scientific and biological aspects of liability. As we noted last time, expert witnesses cannot just be anybody that claims expertise, but they must be qualified and approved by the court in toxic tort litigation.

In some cases, expert witnesses are disqualified from a case and this can negatively impact their reputation and employability, including their ability to serve as an expert witness in future cases. The ability of an expert to recover from disqualification as a witness at trial depends, to an extent, on the reasons for disqualification. It also depends on whether the expert’s testimony was partially or fully excluded. 

Looking at the role of expert testimony in toxic tort litigation, P.1

Toxic tort litigation can be an important avenue of recovery and compensation for those harmed by exposure to chemicals contained in consumer products and on the job. Toxic tort litigation can be premised on negligence, strict liability, fraud and sometimes wrongful death claims, depending on the circumstances of the case.

In many toxic tort cases, a firm understanding of the scientific and biological aspects of the case is necessary to establish liability. One of the tools used to do this is expert witnesses, or individuals who are qualified to speak about the technical aspects of the case necessary to establish liability. 

Company faces litigation for allegedly covering up dangers of weed-killer to humans

This time of year, many homeowners are working to get their lawns back in shape for the year, and this involves addressing weeds. While some folks opt for a chemical free approach to lawn care, many American’s use commercially available herbicides. With any chemical product, responsible consumers read labels well and use products as directed. Unfortunately, labels are only as reliable as the companies that put them on their products.

An example of this is found in recent research suggesting that the supposedly inactive ingredients in Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup may be just as harmful as glyphosate, the active ingredient. The research apparently shows that the company may have intentionally mislabeled certain chemicals as “inert ingredients” to hide their harmful effects to humans. 

Mine closings present environmental threat as companies go bankrupt

Readers may be aware that the mining industry is currently experiencing significant financial challenges due to lack of demand. As a result, workers are being laid off, companies are filing for bankruptcy, and mines are being abandoned. Along with these mine closings, there is an increased risk to the environment.

As mines are increasingly abandoned, the risk of environmental pollution increases, which can impact local natural environments and populations. Mining companies, facing their own challenges, are not likely to take precautions to prevent possible pollution or clean it up. This is all the more likely given that mining companies are allowed to make promises to clean up abandoned mines without actually setting aside the funds necessary to do so. This practice is known as self-bonding.

Toxic tort victims: work with us to seek compensation for pollution-related injury, loss

Last time, we began looking at a federal lawsuit which has been filed against the Environmental Protection Agency by several environmental advocacy groups who claim the agency doesn’t adequately regulate fracking wastewater disposal. As we noted, the groups are requested stricter regulations.

It isn’t that nothing has been done in recent years to address the issue. Last year, for instance, the Department of the Interior established standards for fracking on public lands and Native American reservations. The regulation of the industry is, however, largely in the hands of individual states at present. 

Environmental groups sue EPA to adequately address fracking concerns

Various environmental advocacy groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency alleging that the agency has not done enough to address the environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. The groups say current regulations on fracking wastewater disposal are vague and inadequate, and they are seeking to force the EPA to establish stricter rules on disposal of fracking wastewater.  

Typical industry practice at present is to pump the wastewater into underground wells, but oil and gas companies are able to dispose of the toxic waste in a variety of ways, including spraying it on icy roads and putting it in landfills. The advocacy groups behind the litigation are saying EPA has allegedly failed to update the rules for oil and gas drilling waste disposal for almost 30 years, and that something needs to be done to specifically address issues stemming from inadequate fracking waste disposal methods. 

Georgia river faces significant challenges amidst water rights litigation, P.2

In our last post, we mentioned a recent report by nonprofit organization American Rivers which named the Chattahoochee River as among the most endangered rivers in the country. As we noted, pollution and excessive water use have contributed to the degradation of the river basin. Part of the problem is that there is an interstate debate over water use.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio recently weighed in on the debate when he criticized Georgia for overusing water from the river basin to supply the needs of the Atlanta metro. Rubio is apparently supporting legislation which would require the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia to come to a mutually acceptable agreement regarding water allocation. The bill would eliminate funding for the Army Corp of Engineers until such an agreement is reached. 

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