Report on Declining Water Quality in Montgomery County Withheld
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Jan 27, 2009 in Environmental Law
Montgomery County has not released a report on declining water quality in the County. The report has existed for at least six months, and it should have been released a long time ago. It apparently documents a steady decline in water stream health in northern Montgomery County where expansion, development and construction have been rampant in recent years. Sediment Control Systems used by builders (and required by Montgomery County) in Clarksburg have apparently been inadequate.
Hopefully, the Montgomery County Council will hold a hearing on why this delay occurred, and the extent and cause of the environmental problems. The problems we are seeing now were foreshadowed by environmental reports based on 2006 data and should not come as a surprise to politicians and the business community who certainly had access to that data.
Other areas affected besides Clarksburg are Paint Brach, Rock Creek and Piney Branch. Clarksburg has been affected the most. Residents of Montgomery County generally, and Clarksburg in particular, should consult with legal counsel to determine what their rights are. A lawsuit could possibly be brought against any construction companies and/or contractors who have not complied with State, County or Federal requirements, if it can be shown that water quality has been adversely affected and/or that there are health problems as a result. Causes of action include negligence claims, nuisance claims, and trespass claims. Another major concern is that the value of properties in these areas will be decreased as a result of the polluted water stream.
It is simply wrong that this report on water quality has been withheld from the public. Residents of Clarksburg and Montgomery County who believe that they are sick and/or that their property value declined as a result of this pollution should contact an attorney as soon as possible. To the extent that there are any claims against the State or County, residents should know that the Local Government Tort Claims Act requires that notice be given to the County Executive (Ike Leggeett) within 180 days of the injury occurring (This statute is at 5-304 of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Code).
If this statutory requirement is not met, then the claims will be barred by sovereign immunity. It is obviously troubling and of great concern that the report has existed for 6 months and residents may now have lost their opportunity to bring claims against the County and County Officials. Claims against the State of Maryland are governed by the Maryland State Tort Claims Act, and the notice requirement under that statute is one year. The general statute of limitations for negligence claims against private parties (such as construction companies) in Maryland is 3 years from the date of the injury. This is codified at 5-101 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Code.