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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Does the state fall short in protecting the environment?

Hazardous waste is an issue in nearly every state, and Georgia is no exception. In fact, it is estimated that cleanup is needed at approximately 500 sites here in the state due to hazardous waste. The problem is that the monies that are supposed to go to that cleanup do not always end up furthering cleanup efforts. Does this mean that the state is falling short of its obligations when it comes to protecting the environment?

Estimates indicate that approximately $14.5 million was set aside to clean up Georgia's hazardous waste sites. The problem is that only around half that amount actually goes to those efforts. The state's general fund uses the rest for other things.

Tire pile raises issues of environmental law

The Georgia Department of Transportation has its work cut out for it. Along with the Environmental Protection Division and the Department of Natural Resources in metro Atlanta, an investigation is underway to determine who violated environmental law by dumping thousands of tires on property recently abandoned by GDOT. Not only are the tires an eyesore, but they are a health hazard, a fire hazard and an environmental danger.

After moving from the maintenance facility on a strip of property between a senior retirement community and soccer fields, GDOT used gates and chains to keep trespassers off the unused property. However, someone broke through the gates and began systematically dumping tires on the land. Currently, a river of an estimated 15,000 tires winds through the property.

Efforts to further combat pollution from coal ash continue

Coal has been a source of power across the country for quite some time. When many Georgia residents turn on the lights, it is due to coal. The problem is that burning coal for this purpose produces a great deal of coal ash. In order to combat pollution from this problem, cleanup efforts are in progress. However, some believe those efforts are inadequate.

The coal ash contains byproducts such as arsenic, mercury and lead, which could harm people as well as the environment. Up until now, Georgia Power has stored its coal ash in ponds that mix the ash with water, which could cause spills, leaks and potentially end up in the groundwater. Very little oversight was used in this process. The ponds did not even contain liners, and the groundwater was not tested to determine whether there was a problem.

Are you neighbors' activities keeping you up at night?

Does your neighbor like to work on vehicles at all hours of the day and night? Does your neighbor play drums until 3 a.m.? Does your neighbor use seemingly, unnaturally bright spot lights for security that stream into your windows all night? Do you find yourself wondering what that foul odor is that seems to be coming from your neighbor's property?

Perhaps you have talked to your neighbors about the noise, the smells and the lights, but to no avail. Your pleas may fall on deaf ears, and you may believe that this is how your life will be. Fortunately, that may not be the case.

Environmental law: Does that site have a waste disposal well?

If you are looking to open a Georgia business that sells, maintains or repairs motor vehicles, including boats and small aircraft, then you may want to determine whether a waste disposal well is on the property, especially if the facility was built prior to April 5, 2000. Environmental law at both the federal and state levels outlines certain requirements regarding the disposal of motor vehicle fluids and solvents. If you fail to follow those requirements, it could jeopardize your business.

Waste disposal wells include any underground systems that collect waste such as oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze from motor vehicles. Dry well or shallow disposal systems fall into the category of waste disposal wells. Because these fluids (and others) and solvents can seep into the groundwater, they are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Why is water pollution such a big concern in Georgia?

Nearly every Georgia business must comply with some sort of governmental regulations. If yours needs to be sensitive to environmental issues, one of them may be potential water pollution. Even if your company is nowhere near a natural water source, its activities could end up polluting one or more waterways.

Fertilizers and pesticides are two common culprits of water pollution. Other sources of pollution include industrial chemicals, metals and solvents. When these chemicals are used on crops and the soil in farming operations, they can leach into the ground, and subsequently, the water table. The chemicals are then carried underground to natural water sources and could harm the flora and fauna, wildlife and humans in the area.

A delicate balance is needed in land-use planning

Some areas of Georgia need to continue to grow and expand. This requires municipal authorities to determine how to best use the available land in order to accommodate growth and preserve the environment. A great deal of land\-use planning requires a balance of these two needs.

The primary uses for land include residential, commercial and industrial, along with parks and institutional. Determining the best use for a particular piece of land depends on numerous factors. Limitations need to be put on developers in order to protect the health and welfare of residents in the area, along with the environment. Sometimes those goals align, but in other cases, they may not.

Company pulls products due to exposure to toxic a substance

Georgia parents with young girls may be familiar with a retailer named Claire's. The retail chain sells numerous products, including makeup. Parents allow their young girls to play with the makeup not necessarily knowing what the ingredients are. One mother in another state was concerned and had the products tested. The results indicated that her daughter, and countless others who used the products in question, suffered exposure to a toxic substance -- tremolite asbestos.

Why this known human carcinogen was in the 17 products now pulled from the popular retailer is not yet known. What is known is that any exposure to asbestos can have serious health ramifications in the future. Asbestos is known to cause a rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma. A representative of Claire's says the products were pulled as a precautionary measure while an investigation is conducted.

Buyer beware: Hidden environmental issues could be costly

When you find a piece of commercial property here in Atlanta that you want to purchase, you may expect the seller to be completely forthcoming with any current or potential issues with it. Unfortunately, not everyone believes in full disclosure.

For this reason, you conduct exhaustive due diligence on the property before purchasing it, some of which may be at the behest of your mortgage lender. These steps may seem unnecessary to you, but without it you could inherit a slew of costly problems. One of those problems could surround environmental issues.

Company pays the price for violating environmental law

One of the primary functions of the governments of both Georgia and the United States is to keep residents safe from harm. This means doing more than just enacting laws; it means enforcing them as well. For instance, when it is discovered that a company violated environmental law, it is the government's job to ensure that the appropriate parties pay the price.

For one company from a neighboring state, this means organizational probation for five years, shouldering the cost of cleanup, along with other restitution and paying a hefty fine. In addition, the company is required to come up with a plan for effective environmental compliance, implement it and enforce it, which includes dealing with employees who violate the plan. The company in question was illegally dumping hazardous waste brought into Georgia across state lines.

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