Tag: Water

To Salt or not to Salt? There’s Legal Liability Either Way.

Road salt, seemingly innocuous, is a silent destroyer of aquatic ecosystems, wildlife, groundwater resources, and transportation infrastructure.[1] It takes just one teaspoon of road salt, which is made of sodium chloride, to pollute five gallons of water.[2]

Road salt is applied to roads, parking lots, and sidewalks to aid in dissolving snow and melting ice for transportation convenience and safety. When snow melts, road salt washes away with it—into storm drains, through stormwater collection system, and ultimately into our waterbodies.[3]

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Legal Personhood: the Growing Movement to Give Bodies of Water their Day in Court

The momentum for granting legal personhood to bodies of water is growing, as one water scholar and conservationist, Kelsey Leonard, recently noted.[1] Legal personhood grants bodies of water the same legal rights in a courtroom as a person.[2] Personhood is defined as “any subject matter other than a human being to which the law attributes personality.”[3]

Christopher D. Stone developed the concept of giving an environmental entity legal personhood.[4] Stone’s work was later recognized by Justice William Douglas in his dissent in the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case of Sierra Club v. Morton.[5] Douglas argued for different environmental media to have a locus standi (e.g., the right to bring an action before the court of law) for their own protection and preservation.[6]

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Did Joliet Make the Right Choice for its Drinking Water Supply?

The city of Joliet (“City”), the fourth largest city in Illinois, has decided to secure its drinking water from Chicago instead of Hammond, Indiana.[i] Joliet has historically been dependent on groundwater, pumping from the Ironton Galesville aquifer at an unsustainable rate.[ii] The City has known since the 1960s that the pumping rate exceeds the rate of recharge into the aquifer.[iii] Estimates show the aquifer will likely run dry by the year 2030, forcing the City to seek out alternatives.[iv]

Joliet examined fourteen alternative water sources in Phase I of its exploration.[v] During Phase II, five sources were studied in more detail to replace the existing water source in Joliet, including several municipal Lake Michigan intake systems and the Kankakee and Illinois Rivers.

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U.S. EPA to Revise Lead and Copper Rule, but Questions Remain on its Effectiveness

In October 2019, U.S. EPA proposed a revision to the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).[1] The New York Times obtained a final draft of the proposed revision on September 27.[2] Interest in the LCR grew after residents of Flint, Michigan were widely exposed to lead through their drinking water supply in 2014.[3]

The original rule, adopted pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act, requires “drinking water systems to implement corrosion control measures when the lead level is above the ‘action level’ of 15 parts per billion (ppb).”[4] The rule mandates the collection of household tap water samples, and if more than ten percent of samples exceed the lead action level of 15 ppb, municipal and regional water suppliers must begin to address the issue.[5] But if just ten percent or fewer of samples exceed the 15 ppb action level, water suppliers are not required to address those households with lead concentrations above 15 ppb–leaving some households with elevated lead levels but no corresponding requirement for water suppliers to act.[6]

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U.S. EPA, Some States Moving Forward With PFAS regulation

After years of collecting data that indicate the dangers of per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), the U.S. EPA and several of its state counterparts are beginning the regulatory process for these previously unregulated substances. Some state agencies have proposed PFAS legislation that seeks to regulate the substances’ concentration in everyday products and necessities through mechanisms such as drinking water limits, prohibitions on firefighting foam, and the development of groundwater and surface water quality standards.[1] U.S. EPA is still in the research and development phase of providing national recommendations.

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals used in manufactured goods such as Teflon, waterproof materials, and firefighting foams.[2] PFAS are ubiquitous, persist in the environment, and bioaccumulate. Studies have found that ninety-seven percent of people have PFAS in their blood stream.[3] Research indicates PFAS exposure negatively impacts human health, from immunological effects to cancer.[4]

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