In each of these cases, AltmanNewman put the law to work to solve environmental damage-related challenges for average citizens, as well as local and regional governments.
We continue to pioneer the use of groundbreaking technology to help people, their families and their local governments identify environmental threats — to win justice for those who have been harmed by pollution and are frustrated by inaction from overburdened, underfunded, or unresponsive state and federal environmental agencies.
The case or cases listed below are representative and illustrative of the types of matters handled by AltmanNewman. They are meant to provide information about the activities and experience of our attorneys, and not intended as a guarantee that the same or similar results can be obtained in every case. Do not assume that a similar result may be obtained, as prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome in future cases. The outcome of a particular matter can depend on a variety of factors unique to each case, including specific factual and legal circumstances, and unexpected developments beyond the control of any client or attorney. It is always best to consult AltmanNewman directly to gain more information and insights regarding a case and its potential outcome.
Water, Property & Groundwater
As a follow-up to the 1986 NOPE agreement (Neighbors Opposed to Pit Expansion) that prevented widespread fly ash disposal throughout Pierce Township in Clermont County, Ohio, AltmanNewman was called into a dispute over the long-term use of approximately 150 acres of land in the heart of the Township. After months of contentious negotiations, an agreement was reached whereby the land is permanently protected, via a conservation easement, as a land preserve for the benefit of current and future generations of Township residents. In short, land that was years ago targeted for fly ash disposal will be permanently protected as a Township land preserve.
IBEW Local 212 v. American Laundry, Inc. (2010)
Our firm filed a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) breach of contract and fraud suit on behalf of a local labor union, against former property owners to address an endangerment presented by dry cleaning chemicals and breakdown products. The settlement of claims resulted in unwinding the transfer of the contaminated property, and the recovery of attorney fees, costs, and property and other damages, the amounts of which are confidential.
Hodgins v. Carlisle Engineered Products, et al. (2008)
The owner of a small lawn/farm equipment business was prevented from operating a new tree nursery operation because a large neighboring industrial facility had contaminated the owner’s groundwater. AltmanNewman filed a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) citizen suit and damage claims. During the litigation, the plaintiff obtained key rulings, including that the facility had violated RCRA by failing to obtain a permit. Later, property damages were resolved through settlement (though the amount is confidential) and attorneys’ fees and litigation costs were recovered after a summary trial to the federal judge. The settlement also included a commitment by the defendants to remediate the facility in accordance with a plan overseen by a regulatory agency.
Hertzler v. Vernay Laboratories (2001)
A small group of neighbors learned of the contamination of a manufacturing company site immediately adjacent to their properties. Fearing they were not being told the full truth about the contamination, they filed a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) citizen suit because of evidence of widespread groundwater contamination, as well as, water and air pollution violations. The case resulted in a settlement and “double” federal consent decrees requiring implementation of a comprehensive site investigation and cleanup, with citizen oversight funded by the polluter. The settlement also resulted in compensation for property damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
CF/Water v. Schregardus, et al. (1996)
A group of local citizens determined to protect the underground source of their region’s water were unable to convince the state EPA to deny a landfill expansion, over a landfill that already threatened the groundwater. AltmanNewman litigated the overturning of Ohio EPA’s permit decision for Danis Clarkco Landfill after a five-week trial before Ohio’s environmental appeals commission. This is one of the very few times the commission has ever agreed to overturn actions proposed by the state EPA in support of an industry permit.
Buchholz v. Dayton International Airport (1995)
In the mid-1990s the waters of the Mill Creek near Dayton, Ohio, where children would wade and swim, became filled with visible pollution. At times the creek flowed black; at other times it raged with accumulations of chemical foam, giving off powerful odors as it traveled and deposited the foam on residents’ properties. Neighbors discovered that the pollution was coming from routine uncontrolled, unpermitted releases of tens of millions of gallons of contaminated water containing de-icing chemicals from the nearby Dayton International Airport. The chemicals would foam as they churned through the creek, at one time forming a 9-foot mountain of foam on top of the water. Our firm filed a Clean Water Act citizen suit that stopped the illegal discharges of de-icing fluids into area streams and creeks, which led many other airports around the country to curtail the same type of illegal pollution.
Hopkins v. Elano Corporation, et al. (1988)
A group of residents discovered their drinking wells were contaminated by industrial solvents from a company next to their homes. We obtained an area-wide investigation and cleanup, as well as citizen oversight, under a federal consent decree.
Neighbors Opposing Pit Expansion (N.O.P.E. 1986)
A large group of township residents banded together when they learned that the local utility planned to expand its fly ash pits into the middle of their pristine, wooded community. There was a significant legal challenge to stopping these plans – at the time fly ash was exempt from state law and federal law regulation. Using the one, limited federal law avenue then available, AltmanNewman negotiated a community-wide settlement restricting the spread of fly ash and other utility expansion into the township. Once the utility restored the land after completing allowed clay removal, the land was to be turned over to the township or the neighbors, no later than 30 years in the future. The agreement also gave the residents ongoing rights to information about the threatened environmental impacts of future fly ash handling.
Jones v. Inmont (1984)
Five families knew the odors and vapors from a lagoon on a neighboring farm were dangerous, but their state government did nothing to protect them. It turned out that the hazard was not only a cancer threat, but was also an explosion threat. We secured a first-time ruling that private citizens adversely affected by pollution could obtain relief under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and under the Imminent Hazard provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The court’s decision led to the U.S. Congress legislatively adopting the imminent hazard provision as a direct part of the RCRA citizen suit provision, and opened the field of private cost recovery.
United States of America, et al. v. Board of County Commissioners of Hamilton County, Ohio, et al. (2004)
After decades of widespread illegal sewer overflows and defendants utilizing thousands of residents’ homes as de facto storage for defendants’ water and sewage overflows, Sierra Club and Marilyn Wall filed a Clean Water Act citizen enforcement action to fix the system and end the law violations. The federal court found that, despite decades of talking with the US EPA and the Justice Department, it was not until the efforts of the citizen plaintiffs that positive solutions began to emerge. The efforts of the citizen plaintiffs led to the withdrawal and replacement of an illusory decree and replacement of that decree with two broader decrees that: (a) required elimination of all illegal sewer overflows; and (b) included a first of its kind Water/Sewer-in-Basement Program to compensate homeowners for property damage resulting from backups of water and sewage into their homes. The attorney fees order of the trial court led to the defendants’ appeal to the Sixth Circuit and the precedent-setting decision on attorney fees and costs.
Sierra Club v. Board of County Commissioners of Hamilton County, Ohio (2007)
This appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals grew out of the defendants’ refusal to pay the court-ordered attorney fees from the successful outcome of a Clean Water Act citizen suit, ordering cleanup of county-wide sewer overflows. The result was a precedent setting decision that citizen plaintiffs, who secure substantial benefits to the public, are prevailing or substantially prevailing parties entitled to fees and costs.
Northside Group (2021)
Dave Altman and Justin Newman led the AltmanNewman team in recovering nearly $1.0 million in damages from the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) needed to restore homes and replace personal property on behalf of families in Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood. The families’ homes and lives were devastated after an MSD sewer project collapsed and failed, leading to sewer backups and the inundation of the Northside neighborhood with mucky liquids from MSD’s system. The AltmanNewman effort included both informal resolution and state and federal claims filed in federal court.
- WKRC, High water floods homes in Northside, June 16, 2019
- WCPO, Construction on city’s sewer project to reduce overflows blamed for overflow after storm, June 16, 2019
- WLWT, Northside homeowners unsure what to do following flooding, June 19, 2019
After a Norwood, Ohio resident suffered a devastating sewage back-up that damaged the lower half of her home, AltmanNewman successfully tried the claim in federal court, securing funds needed to help rebuild her home and to compensate for personal property losses. In the process, Justin Newman and Robin Burgess exposed clear errors in the Metropolitan Sewer District’s “expert” testimony, convincing the federal court that MSD should compensate the Firm’s client.
Little Hocking Water Association, Inc. v. E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (2016)
A rural water provider to 12,000 people discovered a toxic industrial chemical, called PFOA or C8, in its water supply — and high levels of that chemical in the blood of its customers. AltmanNewman negotiated the installation of a granular activated carbon plant to filter out C8 and keep the compound at non-detectable levels in the drinking water. We filed a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) citizen suit and damage claims in federal court. The suit led to the first judicial finding of liability, nationwide, for C8 contamination. The parties resolved the case through settlement, the terms of which are confidential.
CHEMICAL RIGHT-TO-KNOW & EXPLOSION
Booth v. Georgia Pacific (2001)
A large suburban, middle-class community suffered two major explosions and was concerned about ongoing air releases from a nearby industrial complex. As lead counsel, D. David Altman filed a class action suit in state court seeking damages for the second explosion, and filed federal environmental claims in federal court. These filings led to a $22,000,000 settlement agreement with the class. In addition to the money paid to the class, a medical program was established and two nationally known “liaisons” reviewed the operations of the Georgia Pacific plant and recommended changes to its operations.
Unlawful Actions, Permits & Rules
Sierra Club v. Koncelik (2013)
Environmental and other public interest groups, represented by AltmanNewman, challenged the Ohio EPA’s issuance of the Ohio Air Toxics Rule, and the unlawful exclusion of entire categories of potentially harmful air toxins from that rule. A successful appeal resulted in the Ohio EPA being required to add toxics to the rule.