Category: Areas of Practice

Cities and towns, water districts and water companies, private landowners, public interest groups, and development entities need advice on how residential development, industrial and commercial expansion, water or sewer extensions, chemical storage and manufacture, solid waste disposal, and land acquisition fall under the wide range of regulatory, technical assistance, research, funding, and land management programs administered by EPA and several other federal and state agencies. But these monitoring, protection, or conservation efforts are not comprehensive and consistent.

The challenge to federal, state, and local officials is to devise a coordinated system that effectively safeguards groundwater quality even while we clean up the mistakes of the past. Yet state laws do not implement a good understanding of hydrogeologic characteristics of water supplies. Groundwater and other water rights is a major loophole in environmental law.

Some environmental laws and land use controls do apply. Regulations govern pollution and allocation of groundwater. Traditional doctrines of nuisance, negligence, trespass, and strict liability for ultra-hazardous activities can be available to seek money damages, alternative water supplies, filter and treatment costs, and injunctive relief. The American Rule of "reasonable use" imposes a limitation on unreasonably wasteful or harmful withdrawals and uses of groundwater.

Our legal and consulting services have made us familiar with how zoning bylaws, subdivision controls, health regulations, wetlands bylaws, pesticide statutes, groundwater discharge permit requirements, and various chemical regulations impose a hodgepodge of limitations on activities which could affect groundwater. We work with leading expert hydrogeologists, environmental engineers, environmental and community planners, and scientists to flesh out this framework with a comprehensive groundwater protection program.

We consult with municipal water departments, planning boards, conservation commissions, boards of appeal, boards of health, and boards of selectmen to draft and implement new bylaws and ordinances and regulations. We represent municipalities in court in appeals concerning local groundwater protection codes and decisions. We sue for clients to secure compensation for contaminated water supplies, to enjoin continuing pollution, and to require cleanup services, temporary and permanent alternative water supplies, and other mitigation measures.

We work with developers on local, state and federal requirements with an eye to incorporating preventive engineering into projects. We represent applicants for special permits under local zoning or health regulations or the state Groundwater Discharge Permit Program. We represent water districts and companies in acquiring new land for wells through purchase or eminent domain, or to control additional property to protect existing wellheads.