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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Scientists warn of exposure to contaminated ground water

Toxic chemicals are used every day in industries across the country, including many here in Georgia. For several years now, scientists have warned the government, and specifically the Environmental Protection Agency, of the dangers of perchlorate, which is a chemical component in explosives. This toxic substance is used in food packaging, airbags and fireworks, not to mention munitions and rocket fuel, among other things. The current uses of perchlorate have left approximately 17 million people at risk of exposure to contaminated ground water.

This toxic chemical compound most often affects the thyroid, which is needed for normal development and growth. The presence of perchlorate in the water supply could potentially put children at risk right alongside adults. The campaign to get the EPA to regulate the use and monitor the spread of this chemical compound has gone on for decades. In fact, in 2016, one group, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit, attempting to force the EPA to set safe standards for perchlorate.

Even accidental water pollution can cause significant damage

Numerous industries throughout Georgia work with chemicals and other toxic substances that could have a detrimental impact on the environment. If not handled with care, those items could cause significant water pollution if spilled. This could result in a company encountering issues with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Environmental Protection Division.

For instance, a chicken plant in Northern Georgia recently found itself on the wrong side of an inquiry from the EPA and EPD when employees accidentally released ferric chloride into a stream behind the plant when they punctured a 55-gallon drum of the compound. All of the fish and other life that called the stream home died. Reports indicate that the company failed to report the incident right away, which further tarnished the company's reputation with locals.

Will the risk of chemical exposure by children increase?

The Environmental Protection Agency exists to help ensure that everyone, including children, has access to clean water and fresh air. It enforces regulations and laws designed to reduce the potential for chemical exposure through the water supply and air whether here in Georgia or elsewhere. However, recent changes made by the current head of the agency could put children more at risk.

For instance, previous restrictions regarding the amount of mercury, lead and other toxic metals in the water supply were scaled back. This means that industrial facilities may be letting more of these harmful materials into the waterways. Children in particular are vulnerable to the effects of these toxic metals and could suffer from developmental delays and behavioral issues.

Could your organization use an environmental audit?

How long has your organization been in business? You probably made sure that you accounted for all environmental regulations that apply to your business before opening the doors. The problem is that regulations and laws tend to change on a fairly regular basis.

You may not realize that your company could inadvertently be violating one or more environmental laws. One way to rectify the situation is to conduct an environmental audit. One of the first things to know about this type of audit is that you may want someone with the appropriate experience and knowledge of environmental regulations and laws to conduct it.

EPA investigates possible environmental law violations

Because of the potential for harmful pollution, chemical plants here in Georgia and across the country often need to comply with numerous rules and regulations. The demands of environmental law may help combat pollution, but they can also box a company into a corner. Failing to comply with applicable laws could even lead to criminal allegations.

The owner of an out-of-state chemical plant recently came under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state's Department of Environmental Quality. Apparently, allegations arose indicating that the company's air emissions fail to meet with current standards and the terms of a settlement reached back in 2013. The agencies appear to believe the problem to be serious enough to warrant more than just a civil inquiry. Reports indicate that the company has a history of failing to comply with air quality standards.

Land development on Georgia's coastlines must meet certain laws

Georgia's coastlines remained relatively untouched for a long time. Then, land development began in these beautiful areas. People wanted, and do want, to enjoy their beauty, but that can only happen if everyone obeys the rules put into place in order to preserve the majestic vistas.

As more people move into the area and it becomes more of a tourist area, changes to the coastlines have already occurred. In order to preserve this environment, developers need to make sure that they adhere to strict environmental laws. Knowing which laws apply to a particular development is often the challenge.

Sometimes, it takes a little help to combat pollution

School districts across the country, including those here in Georgia, often find their budgets spread thin. This does not leave much, if any, extra money available to be concerned with environmental issues. Sometimes, school districts need a little help in order to do what they can to combat pollution -- specifically from the buses the kids ride every day during the school year.

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to change that. Numerous school districts across the country are receiving rebates to replace their diesel-fueled buses under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. Many school districts support the act, but do not have the funds to replace their buses.

Environmental law violations settled by car dealerships

Like just about everywhere else in the country, Georgia car dealerships provide maintenance and repair services to their customers. Anything from fluid changes to tire and brake replacements can be taken care of at these establishments. As such, these dealerships must adhere to environmental law when it comes to the storage and disposal of the waste products generated as part of vehicle repairs and maintenance.

Substances such as oil and transmission fluids, along with materials such as tires, are made up of components and ingredients harmful to the environment and people. For this reason, both federal and state governments often strictly regulate how those hazardous materials are required to be handled by auto dealerships. Sporadic or routine inspections may occur to ensure the applicable regulations are followed.

An EMS can help you stay in compliance with environmental laws

Yours may be one of the many businesses that faces environmental law compliance issues from both the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Georgia. Because of this, you may decide to take proactive steps to ensure that your company doesn't violate any environmental regulations. As an added benefit, you could streamline your processes and perhaps save some money as well.

The implementation of an environmental management system contains built-in evaluations and reviews that allow your organization to optimize its environmental performance and make sure that it remains in compliance with all applicable laws. You can tailor an EMS to the specific needs of your company, but you may find it useful to understand the basic elements of one as a place to start.

Protecting the environment may be a job for Georgia's trees

Georgia has some of the most beautiful wetland forests in the nation. Residents and tourists alike can take paddling trips through the forests, but in some areas, land owners have cut down the trees to sell for lumber. What they may not realize is that the monetary value of the trees' capability of protecting the environment may make the forests more valuable than lumber.

A study done in the southeastern region of the nation determined that Georgia's trees are worth approximately $67.3 billion. That value is derived from the environmental protection they provide to the state. They combat flooding, provide recreation and filter drinking water.

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