Pollution of soil, groundwater, streams, creeks, tributaries, rivers, bays and inlets can not only pose an environmental and health hazard for the public at large, but also can have devastating economic effects on individual landowners whose property has been directly contaminated. Poisoning of the water table from run-off from chicken and hog farms, slaughter houses, ill-contained landfills, heavy metal smelting operations, leaking underground storage tanks for petroleum products, battery plants, bleach plants, and other manufacturing concerns — both active and abandoned — can damage or destroy the fair market value of property.
Toxic pollutants can enter water supplies both directly and through the soil into ground water. Since scores of communities rely on ground water as a drinking water source, there is a substantial risk of the development of serious physical injuries and disease for those that ingest such contaminated water.
Pollution may even occur miles from the source of the contaminants. Flood water picks up contaminants as it runs over the ground and carries those contaminants to neighboring properties. Ground water can flow underground for miles carrying toxins from their original source.
Storm water flooding and sewage back-ups caused by inadequate drainage structures, controls and facilities by local government and private businesses can also wreck havoc on the lives and properties of landowners. Market value of properties beset with these problems plummet, individual are stripped of their right to use and enjoy their property and homes and, more ominously, can lead to serious personal illness and disease.
State laws concerning trespass and the creation of nuisances, and Federal laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Resource Recovery and Reclamation Act, provide protection from, and compensation for, the harms caused by ground water. Affected landowners may be eligible to recover the loss in the value of their property, repair or replacement cost for damage to personal property and buildings, the loss of the use and enjoyment of their property, attorneys fees and expenses of litigation for having to bring the wrongdoers before a Court, punitive damages to deter the wrongful behavior and, in the appropriate case, abatement of the pollution, storm water flooding and sewage contamination.
Clint W. Sitton has years of experience in advocating for the rights of those whose property and health have been injured as the result of flooding, sewage contamination and exposure to toxins.