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Environmental Law

For many years, Environmental Law issues were addressed through subjects such as nuisance and water rights. In recent decades, these areas have been joined by a host of state and federal laws dealing with clean air and water, creating a complex field that only the most knowledgeable and experienced attorneys can navigate.


Any activity which creates a substantial interference with your right to use and enjoy your property can be dealt with through legal channels. Your property includes not only the land itself, but also the air above it and any water present. A nuisance may be an offensive odor or loud noise from a factory or agricultural operation, or it may be an imposing structure which blocks the natural light or view.

Whether you live in a rural/agricultural area or in a large urban center, outside activity which devalues your property can and should be addressed.

Water Rights

The laws surrounding water rights differ greatly depending upon what area of the country you are in. In the western United States, under the doctrine of Prior Appropriation, first in time equals first in right. A person or entity that withdraws or diverts water and puts it to beneficial use in essence holds “rights” to that water over other users who come later.

In other areas of the country, traditional water rights law, known as riparian rights, generally holds sway. Under riparian law, water rights are generally allotted to landowners whose property contains or abuts water. While under strict riparianism, the landowner held absolute ownership of its groundwater, Indiana follows an approach of “regulated riparianism.” State law puts water into four different categories, and rights to ownership and use differ depending upon the type of water at issue. The four categories of water are:

  • Surface waters that flow in a permanent channel. This includes rivers, streams, lakes and ponds.
  • Dispersed surface waters. This category is “wild water” which temporarily flows over the land but without any permanent channel.
  • Subterranean streams.
  • Percolating groundwater. This water flows underground but not through a defined channel, as in a subterranean stream.

Under either the Prior Appropriation approach, or riparian law, issues of allocation and use will continue to develop. Commercial users of water continue to grow as local water supplies diminish, creating an increased stress on supply and making water rights issues more and more important, vital not only to the economy, but to the daily lives of everyone on the planet.

Sick Buildings

Recently, attention has been brought to the plight of people working in what have come to be known as “sick buildings.” The presence of asbestos, mold or other harmful contaminants can greatly diminish the health of individuals exposed to them over a sustained period of time. Poor indoor air quality can cause a variety of ill effects, dubbed “sick building syndrome.” The presence of contaminants and the adequacy of ventilation are important issues which must be addressed for the health of the building’s occupants.

Whether you have suffered damage to your property or damage to your health, our attorneys can protect and defend you. For assistance with your environmental law matter, contact the law firm of Ramey & Hailey today.

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