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Is Ohio getting enough of the right information about train derailment to protect East Palestine? (February 2023)

AltmanNewman President Dave Altman commented on state leaders’ ‘incomplete and inaccurate’ statements about the toxic train derailment and questioned whether the government is looking at all the sources of pollution from the derailment and burnoff of toxic chemicals that threaten residents of the East Palestine community. On February 18, Ohio’s U.S. Senators urged Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA to test the community for dioxins, highly toxic chemicals created by the combustion of vinyl chloride, the chemical burned off after the derailment.

Sixth Circuit orders EPA to reconsider removal of vital tool for Ohioans exposed to air pollution (2023)

On February 10, 2023, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to reconsider its 2020 rollback of Ohio’s Air Nuisance Rule, an essential tool for Ohio citizens who live near air pollution sources.

AltmanNewman President Dave Altman, who argued the case on behalf of Marilyn Wall and Donna Ballinger, praised the ruling and urged EPA to reinstate the provision to help neighbors of polluting sites. “For about 50 years, this was a tool that Ohio citizens had and used, and we used it on behalf of a lot of them. It needs to be returned, and the faster that can happen the better. That tool is now missing for the people who need it most,” Altman said. (Law360, 6th Circuit sends EPA rule cut back for consideration, February 10, 2023)

AltmanNewman represents Donna Ballinger, a fenceline neighbor of the Cleveland Cliffs (formerly AK Steel) Middletown plant, and Sierra Club leader Marilyn Wall. Joined by Sierra Club and the Ohio Environmental Council, Ballinger and Wall petitioned the Sixth Circuit to review EPA’s November 2020 removal of the state’s Air Nuisance Rule from Ohio’s Clean Air Act state implementation plan. The rule has been used by citizens, local governments and the state to bring claims in federal court to enforce the law and reduce air pollution harms to health and property.

In 2020 EPA removed the nuisance rule, which had been in place since 1974, using an obscure “error correction” mechanism after months of intense lobbying by a law firm representing SunCoke Energy in a securities offering. SunCoke Energy also happened to be facing a citizen suit at that time, brought by AltmanNewman on behalf of neighbors of an Ohio SunCoke Energy facility, for violating the provision.

EPA told the Sixth Circuit it expects to make a decision on whether to reinstate the rule within a year of the decision.

Read the decision here; read more about the importance of the Air Nuisance Rule to Ohio citizens and Donna Ballinger’s fight to stop pollution from the Cleveland Cliffs plant here:

Two monitoring wells at Beckjord knocked out for months, but County not informed (2023)

Two wells that monitor pollution at the former Beckjord plant site were out of commission for several months last year, but neither site owner Commercial Liability Partners or the Ohio EPA told Clermont County officials. In this I-Team investigative story, AltmanNewman President Dave Altman explains why the damage caused by Ohio River flooding at the site heightens concerns about the potential migration of pollution from the 6 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash that are stored in unlined ash ponds along the river, which provides drinking water to 5 million people.   The ash ponds are also upstream of Clermont County’s drinking water wellfield, which provides water to 130,000.

Watch or read the January 31, 2023 WCPO story here.

AltmanNewman fights for communities and drinking water suppliers grappling with PFAS, the toxic “forever chemicals” (2022)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of thousands of manmade chemicals used to make water-, stain- and grease-repellant coatings used in a wide range of consumer  products  and industrial applications. PFAS are used in cookware, stain- and water-repellant clothing and carpets, food packaging, cleaning products, cosmetics, personal care products, and more.

Most people have been exposed to PFAS, and 99 percent of Americans have PFAS in their blood. PFAS are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down, accumulate in the human body, and remain in the environment – and people – for decades. PFAS have been linked to several serious health conditions in humans, including cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low infant birth weights, and effects on the immune system.

AltmanNewman recently filed comments on behalf of the Little Hocking Water Association urging EPA to ensure that those responsible for the PFAS pollution that has contaminated drinking water systems and communities across the country are held liable for cleanup costs. Read the comments and learn more about Little Hocking’s 20-year fight to protect its community’s water supply here.

AltmanNewman’s work resulted in long-term treatment of a heavily contaminated water supply and the first judicial finding of liability in the United States for PFAS contamination. We continue to monitor the emerging science around PFAS and are well-positioned to assist communities, environmental groups, and drinking water suppliers facing PFAS contamination.

AltmanNewman urges Sixth Circuit to allow enforceable plan to end Franklin County sewage pollution (2022)

In oral argument before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 26, 2022, AltmanNewman Vice President Justin Newman explained how a consent order between the Ohio EPA and Franklin County will still allow at least 1,700 failing home sewage treatment systems to pollute local waterways with tens of millions of gallows of raw sewage illegally. Newman urged the panel to allow a citizen suit to enforce the Clean Water Act to move forward. He urged that the citizen suit  would force compliance by going beyond mere studies and plans and actually require the elimination of the illegally discharging, unpermitted home sewage treatment systems and unpermitted sewage discharges through the county’s outfalls.

AltmanNewman recovers damages for Northside homeowners inundated by sewer project collapse (2021)

The AltmanNewman team recovered 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.