How New Businesses Can Impact Your Local Environment
For many, a new business in town can be a point of excitement. However, when the practices of that business result directly, or indirectly, in the breaking of environmental regulations, nearby residents can suffer the consequences. Many of these regulations are put in place to not only protect the environment but the health and wellbeing of people as well. It is important to be educated on your area’s environmental regulations and the potential warning signs to look out for.
Legal Implications of Environmental Hazards
In order to keep residents safe, many federal, state, and even local laws are put in place to prevent environmental contamination from hazardous substances. While regulations may vary, they typically target the following materials and substances:
- Petroleum-based products and solvents,
- Natural and synthetic gases,
- Waste products from health care facilities or offices,
- Lead-based paint, and
- Other biological or chemical toxins.
While legislation to monitor, prohibit, and regulate the aforementioned substances is evolving, there are two significant pieces of federal legislation in place that provide an umbrella of regulations for commercial businesses. They are:
- The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (42 U.S.C. § § 6901 and following), or the RCRA. This act deals with contamination leaking from underground storage tanks.
- The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. § § 9601-9675), or CERCLA. This act is commonly referred to as the “Superfund” and covers chemical contaminants released from everything else, excluding underground storage tanks.
Aside from these two acts, federal laws that may pertain to a property include the Clean Air Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.
State regulations regarding environmental issues are updated more frequently than the federal legislature, so it is important to understand what constitutes a violation in your state. For example, in 2021, Maryland adopted 42 new environmental laws, which included topics such as oil, solid waste management, and tree conservation. Consulting with an experienced environmental litigation attorney can help you to navigate specific state legislations.
Reporting Violations of Environmental Regulations
Environmental legislations are put in place to protect the health and safety of those who may be affected by the environmental repercussions of businesses and large industries that use harmful materials.
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) handles the enforcement of these regulations, they do rely on the public to help hold businesses accountable. If you believe that potentially harmful environmental activities are occurring in your community or workplace, the EPA urges you to contact them. Reports from the public have led to state and federal enforcement cases, and ultimately aided in environmental protection.
When reporting an environmental crime, it is important to understand what to look for. Common violations include, but are not limited to,
- Illegal disposal of hazardous waste,
- Export of hazardous waste without the permission of the receiving country,
- Illegal discharge of pollutants to a body of water in the United States,
- The removal and disposal of regulated asbestos-containing materials in a manner inconsistent with the law and regulations,
- Illegal importation of certain restricted or regulated chemicals into the United States,
- Tampering with a drinking water supply,
- Mail fraud or wire fraud,
- Conspiracy, or
- Money laundering relating to environmental criminal activities.
If you believe that you have witnessed any of the above activities, it is important that you report it to the EPA. Make sure that you’re not putting yourself in harm’s way, and follow the EPA’s safety suggestions for reporting tips.
Businesses That Are More Likely to be Impacted by Environmental Regulations
Not all businesses have the same likelihood of violating environmental law. The following situations could cause increased liability for environmental problems:
- A business that uses any substances that are likely to be viewed as potential toxins,
- Businesses that intend to do extensive remodeling that will involve disrupting the ground (i.e. paving for parking lots or building additions onto existing structures),
- Properties near current or former gas stations where underground storage tanks may fail and contaminate soil and groundwater,
- Prior tenants or neighbors used toxic materials,
- Space is near a wetland, or
- The building has deteriorating asbestos or lead paint.
It is especially important that you be aware if you live near or work in a business that falls into one of those categories.
Seek Justice if You’re Living Near a Business That Breaks Environmental Regulations
These regulations are put in place to protect both the environment as well as the health and safety of anyone living near the business. Breaking them can result in residents paying the ultimate price with their health, and possibly even their lives. If you or someone you love have developed a health condition and believe it may be linked to an environmental regulation violation, you deserve justice. Consult with the environmental litigation attorneys at Peter Angelos Law to learn more.