This post is the next is my series on Natural Resources and Environmental Law. In my first article in this series, I explained how people in Oklahoma can acquire legal title to land by openly claiming possession of the land and caring for it for 15 years. In this article I am going to discuss the concept of trespass by pollution. When someone causes pollution to your land, they technically are trespassing on your land over and over again. I am going to discuss various scenarios where a landowner may encounter such trespasses, and what action can be taken legally to stop, prevent, and compensate the landowner for the injured land.
Trespass by Pollution: When chemicals or wastewater pollutes your land, call us to put a stop to the mess.
When running water, sewage, waste, or other pollution runs onto your property from another’s land, that landowner has committed a trespass on to your land and you are entitled to recover actual damages sustained as a result of that trespass. Especially when such contamination or pollution can be prevented with just a little bit of planning and care.
When individuals, businesses, or oil companies fail to take such adequate measures to prevent their contaminated water or sewage from polluting another’s land, they should pay the damaged landowner for all the harm.
When those same entities not only fail to take adequate measures, but act with reckless disregard for the landowner’s rights, or for the environment, then those wrongdoers should pay not only for the damage, but should be fined for recklessly destroying precious natural resources. After all, water, streams, ponds, and trees can add significant value to the real estate. When those natural resources are damaged, the land loses market value.
But juries can consider not just evidence of decreased market value, but also evidence of replacement costs can be considered in determining the diminution in value. Further, natural resources can have a special, more personal value to a landowner, and landowners should be properly compensated for that loss as well.
Living with the Nuisance of repeated sewage trespasses
I’ve previously written about the problems that people in urban areas face when the municipal sewer lines become clogged and back-up into their homes. Homeowners who have ever had a city sewer line back up into their house have experienced a devastating event. Hundreds of gallons of sewage can do thousands of dollars in damage. However, urban homeowners are not the only ones to encounter serious damage from misplaced sewage. Landowners in rural areas can also run into problems with improper sewage or wastewater disposal.
However, Folks in rural areas though may experience a different type of sewage problem than those in urban areas.
In rural areas, sewage lagoons are utilized as a form of wastewater removal as an alternative to septic tanks. The sewage is funneled into what is essentially a pond. Department of Environmental Quality regulations require that the sewage lagoon have walls that extend at least three feet above the sewage. This is sometimes referred to as three feet of “free board.” The goal is to monitor the rising of the sewage level and prevent overflowing. Rain and other running water can cause the level of the sewage lagoon to rise, overflowing out of the lagoon and onto nearby land, where it can continue to run, making its way onto neighboring lands.
Protecting My Clients’ Land and Natural Resources
I am passionate about cases involving natural resources. Our land, our trees, our ponds, streams and rivers are all natural resources that are to be cherished, free from contamination and pollution. If you have suffered harm to your land, please feel free to contact us to discuss appropriate legal action.