Water Contamination Lawsuits
Alarmingly, water contamination is increasing, causing harm to thousands and thousands of people and the environment. Environmental laws are in place to protect us and environmental law policy prohibits the dumping of toxic waste or other hazardous materials in our lakes, rivers, streams, and public land. But new chemicals used in fracking by natural gas companies, for example, can impede regulation and pollute drinking water. As a result, individuals and communities often seek help from an environmental law firm. Besides fracking and illegal dumping, other practices such as construction using toxic lead pipes and industries using underground storage tanks can cause water pollution.
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Water Contamination Practices
Along with contaminants from industrial practices such as mining and underground storage tanks, groundwater - used as drinking water by more than half of the US population, and a major source for crop irrigation - is polluted through fertilizers, pesticides, untreated septic waste and more.
Well water can be polluted from contaminants used at various sites such as oil refineries, gas stations, dry cleaning stores, machine shops, railroad yards, farms, land fills, chemical plants/waste storage facilities, lumber yards, or incinerators. For instance, nitrate contamination often occurs in rural areas that rely heavily on well water. To compound the well water problem, toxic chemicals may have increased contamination by leaching into the ground water.
Types and Sources of Drinking Water and Ground Water Contamination
A water study in 2012 found that run off polluted by nitrate from agriculture practices like fertilizers were endangering the water supply of 1 in 10 people living in the study area in rural California. Nitrate contamination is caused by over-application of fertilizer to crops and from huge amounts of manure generated by concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, where large numbers of poultry, swine, cattle or other animals are housed and raised in confined areas.
Contaminated Water Health Risks
Drinking contaminated water can result in a number of serious health risks. For instance, if the water is contaminated with solvents, pesticides and other chemicals, the health effects can include damage to the liver, kidneys, and reproductive system, and many chemicals are carcinogenic.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) lists some common but dangerous substances found in ground water and well water, including rocket fuel, lead, germs and disease-carrying parasites, arsenic, coliform, and other harmful contaminants.
Nitrate contamination symptoms include shortness of breath and methemoglobinemia, or "blue baby syndrome,"a potentially fatal blood disorder. Other illnesses and conditions that have been linked to high levels of nitrates in drinking water include:
- Gastrointestinal illnesses, including cancer
- Thyroid disorders, including cancer
- Birth defects
Environmental Laws, Acts and Regulations—Federal and State
State Law is typically the basis of water contamination liability, and is effective when the water pollution can be made with scientific certainty and traced to a particular party. One of the most important elements of all environmental claims based on state law is causation. For instance, a community trying to prove that their toxic well water has increased the likelihood that they will get cancer may have a difficult time proving a definite link between a defendant's actions and a health issue that developed years later.
Federal Law makes it easier than state law to file a contaminated water lawsuit against polluters. The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Superfund law set specific water standards and permit requirements and force polluters to clean up contamination or reimburse others for cleanup. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can go directly after companies that violate the law directly. The EPA can also assist in a private water pollution lawsuit by continuing the investigation with federal resources.
The CWA allows anyone who is or may be affected by water contamination to bring a citizen suit in federal court. You can bring a lawsuit against an individual or corporation that is violating the law and request an order to stop further contaminating practices. You can also request civil penalties, court costs, and lawyers' fees.
Water Contamination Lawsuits
Fracking lawsuits claiming groundwater contamination have been filed nationwide, with a number in California. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has undertaken studies and analyses of the possible effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.
People living near fracturing operations have filed water contamination lawsuits due to changes in their water quality following fracking of nearby gas wells. Oil and gas deposits are often found in the same spot as underground water supplies. Water contamination can occur underground through the injection of chemicals directly into water supplies during fracking. When the collected chemicals are stored deep underground, they may eventually reach the water supply. Or in the case of Porter Ranch, CA, the underground storage tank can leak. Surface contamination can occur through spilled or stored chemicals that are carried to water pathways through storm runoff. As well, due to mass quantities of water being used by the hydraulic fracturing process, water quality and availability, and sensitive ecosystems can be affected.
Some recent water contamination lawsuits include:
Porter Ranch Methane Gas Leak Since one of 115 natural gas wells owned by SoCal Gas at Porter Ranch began leaking methane gas on October 23, there have been conflicting reports and rumors about a number of concerns, from public safety and health issues to environmental damage. Attorney Patricia Oliver has heard from concerned residents that underground methane leaks will affect the groundwater. Her law firm has asked for an investigation because of this concern.
Lead Contamination in Michigan Drinking Water Lead contamination in Flint, MI has resulted in February 2016 in a criminal investigation involving the FBI, federal prosecutors, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General and the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. The lead crisis in Flint is believed to affect as many as 8,000 children under the age of six, who were exposed to unsafe levels of lead as a result of a budget-cutting measure that involved switching the city' drinking water sources.
Some 18 cities in Pennsylvania were found to have even higher lead levels than Flint, according to a 2014 study by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Lead in Drinking Water Lawsuit against the City of Chicago Chicago residents in February 2016 filed a class-action lawsuit in Cook County Circuit court against the city, alleging that their drinking water has been contaminated with lead for years. The lawsuit refers to a 2013 EPA study that found elevated lead in homes' drinking water after city construction disrupted lead service lines and they failed to warn residents about the risk, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. Instead of replacing the city's lead pipes, officials opted to use chemicals to flush out the lead.
Roxana Property Owners' Benzene Contamination Lawsuit Against Oil Refinery Owners Property owners in the Village of Roxana, Illinois filed a benzene water contamination lawsuit last in 2012 against Shell Oil Company, ConocoPhillips and WRB Refining LP, seeking to hold the former and current owners and operators of the Wood River Refinery responsible for releasing carcinogenic chemicals underneath portions of the village (Case No. 12-cv-336-GPM). The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois rejected Shell' immediate efforts to dismiss the case and in 2013 certified a class of property owners to pursue these claims.
Camp Lejeune and VA Water Contamination
The contamination was discovered in 1982, with Camp Lejeune given the designation of a Superfund site by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1989. However, it wasn't until 2012 - 30 years after the contamination was first discovered - when legislation was finally passed with a view to bringing benefits to an estimated 750,000 Americans who may have been exposed to the contamination.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that the widespread use and storage of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) led to the release of these chemicals - specifically trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene, PCE - into the environment, including the groundwater. However, according to the Tampa Bay Times (December 5, 2015), a veteran diagnosed with sarcoma attempted to obtain benefits but he was denied because he did not have a "malignancy."
Water Contamination Legal HelpIf you think your water is contaminated due to the negligence of another, you may want to seek legal help to file a water contamination lawsuit against the responsible parties to help with medical expenses and lost income. Call your doctor and drink bottled or distilled water until the issue has been investigated. It is important that you report suspected water contamination to your local Environmental Government agency. As well, it may be a good idea contact the EPA - you might be able to help others in a similar situation.
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