Law Offices of Roy L. Mason, P.A.

Annapolis Environmental Law Blog

Once upon a time, there was a sleepy village named Love Canal ...

A Dutch company specializing in water treatment and air purification systems has a page on its website devoted to the 10 worst environmental disasters. There are actually two lists: one for natural disasters and one for anthropogenic disasters. The criteria used to determine each disaster's rank included total death toll, the number of injuries, lasting damage and media exposure.

The list of natural disasters comprises earthquakes, epidemics, floods, tornadoes and, it would seem, the rest of the 10 plagues of Egypt. The histories are both tragic and fascinating.

The list of anthropogenic disasters -- that is, the disasters that have come about as a result of human activity -- is both tragic and appalling. Bhopal is first, Chernobyl second. Scan down to the sixth entry, and you see Love Canal.

Employees ask, if the mold is gone, why are we still sick?

There is a certain formula to home renovation shows. For example, if the house went up before 1980 or so, you know there will be an asbestos problem. If the house is in a warm or humid region -- like, say, Maryland -- you know they will find evidence of termite damage. And, of course, if the house has been neglected for a time, there will be that moment when the show's host rips through some sheetrock and says, "Wow, this could be a problem."

He has found mold.

The mold may be "active" -- the area is still damp, a pipe is still leaking -- which means a big job in home reno terms. If the mold is "dry," it is a small job: The roof was fixed or the window frame was sealed, but no one had bothered to open up the walls to see if there was any damage. Either way, mold is bad, and living with mold can result in a number of health problems.

Anne Arundel bans rubble landfills; fate of two projects uncertain

The Anne Arundel County Council voted unanimously this week to ban new rubble landfills beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Originally, proponents asked only that the ban apply to residential areas. An amendment expanded the measure to include the entire county.

While the council was unanimous, other city officials warned against the ban. The county attorney suggested that the ban could encroach on landowners' property rights, and an argument over property rights would likely end up in court. The list of potential plaintiffs starts with two local developers who have been trying to open new rubble landfills for several years.

New EPA study links fracking to water contamination

States all over the nation are questioning the safety of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Although this practice has helped to push certain natural resource extraction rates to record levels, many safety experts warn that this progress is linked to unacceptable risks.

One of the biggest concerns voiced by many safety experts is that fracking may lead to otherwise preventable water contamination. Recently, an internal document produced in March of this year by the federal Environmental Protection Agency was leaked on the Internet. The document confirms what many safety experts have suspected for some time.

Hey there, fine-particle emission, new in town?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed the Environmental Protection Agency a victory that could clear the air a bit in Maryland. The court upheld the EPA's interpretation of the Cross-state Air Pollution Rule, also known as the Transport Rule.

States affected by the rule fall into one of two categories: upwind and downwind. An upwind state is where the air pollution is created. The fine-particle emissions and ozone-level air pollution drift across state borders, affecting the air quality in the states along the way, the downwind states. Specifically, the rule calls on coal-fired power plants in the upwind states to limit their harmful emissions. Not only will the plants' home states benefit from the reduction in pollutants, but the downwind states will as well.

Maryland community awaits reliable water contamination tests

One of the most basic human needs is water. In many parts of Maryland, residents rely on their local municipality to provide a safe and reliable water supply. In order to do this, communities must be diligent in order to ensure that the water is safe for consumption.

In Fort Detrick, local officials have been weighing the viability of installing wells on a specific plot of land, but issues have arisen. The problem? The groundwater at this site may have been contaminated by chemicals seeping from a local landfill. In order to ensure the safety of the water from the proposed well sites, the city has contracted a firm to conduct water contamination testing.

A lot of manure: The General Assembly and phosphorus runoff p2

We are talking about a proposal included in the budget bill that would postpone implementation of phosphorus management regulations for another year or so. Farmers fought hard for the measure, and as it happens, they were successful: The study and the postponement passed.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture will complete the economic impact study and present it to lawmakers by the end of the year. According to DelMarvaNow.com, the department, in partnership with Salisbury University, is already working on the study.

When we left off in our last post, we were talking about the Push Me Pull You nature of phosphorus. It is an important nutrient for farmers and a moneymaker for chicken farmers -- a closed system benefitting everyone involved.

A lot of manure: General Assembly wrestles with phosphorus runoff

The budget bill has moved to conference committee, where Maryland senators and delegates will hammer out their differences. At this point, it is difficult to say whether the phosphorus regulation provision we were discussing in our last post will stay in the bill. As history has proved, anything can happen in the last days of the session (the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on April 7).

The measure in question seeks to delay the implementation of regulations regarding phosphorus management until the Department of Agriculture has completed its economic impact study and the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee has had a chance to review the study. According to the primary sponsor of the provision, the department may continue to craft regulations during this period. The department would just not be able to issue and to enforce new regulations. It's a delay, not a ban.

Phosphorus regs ruffle feathers in General Assembly

There is a chicken crossing the road joke somewhere in here, but, really, the tension between Maryland's agriculture industry and environmentalists working to save Chesapeake Bay is nothing to joke about. If anything, the debate is heating up, especially at the General Assembly.

For example, a Senate provision in the state budget bill would put the brakes on the state's plan to issue regulations on phosphorus. The proposal would not kill the rulemaking effort altogether but would postpone implementation until the Department of Agriculture's completion of an economic impact study (targeted for December 2014, according to the bill). The proposal allows, too, a 45-day review period for the Budget & Taxation Committee; at the end of the review, the committee would issue recommendations for next steps.

Love thy neighbors, and try not to douse them with pesticides

There is something nostalgic about a working farm that sells its products locally. There may be an apple orchard where visitors can pick their own, or there may be a café that serves food made with produce. The farm stand by the side of the road conjures images of Norman Rockwell.

If only it were that easy. Nowadays, the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic states are so densely populated that these farms sit right next to housing developments. And that means that the residents have an increased risk of pesticide drift. Just ask one man who has struggled with his farming neighbor over the issue for 25 years.