Glossary

A list of definitions for many useful environmental terms.

Assimilative Capacity Eutrophication A Point Source
Consent Order The Environmental Protection Division Supplemental Environmental Project
Conservation Easement Federal Court TMDLs
Diligent Prosecution Fact Sheet Watershed
Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) Industrial Users  
Endangered Species Notice of Violation  

Assimilative Capacity – The ability of a natural body of water to receive wastewaters or toxic materials without harmful effects and without damage to aquatic life.

Consent Order – A legal agreement between two parties (such as in an enforcement action by EPD, between EPD and the violator) as a result of CWA violations which typically includes a discussion of the specific violations, penalties, and the necessary corrective actions to be taken by the violator. The document must be signed by both parties to be valid.  EPD has a searchable database of all enforcement actions available on the web. Mail subscriptions to these notices are available at a cost of $50 per year. That fee provides the subscriber with all notices of proposed and executed orders issued from July 1 through June 30 of the following year. For information about subscriptions, call EPD at (404) 657-5947 (inside Atlanta local dialing area) or toll-free within Georgia at (888) 373-5947.

Conservation Easement – A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization or government agency in which the landowner agrees to restrict use of the property to conservation activities. An easement serves to protect the land from development.

Diligent Prosecution – This is a legal term to describe whether an enforcement action by the state – in this case, EPD – is sufficient. A citizen can bring an action to require compliance with NPDES permit limits whenever EPD is not “diligently prosecuting” the offender. If EPD has taken no action or has not taken an action that requires compliance, then there has not been diligent prosecution. In other cases, EPD may have taken action but that action seems very weak (e.g. granting several years for the permittee to comply with its permit). In those cases, a court will decide whether EPD has diligently prosecuted the violator.

Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) – The CWA requires permittees to monitor discharges and report whether they’ve complied with the effluent limitations contained in their NPDES permits. In Georgia, discharge monitoring reports are submitted to EPD. These monitoring reports are available to the public under the Georgia Open Records Act.

Endangered Species – Endangered species are plants or animals in immediate danger of extinction. While extinction may be a natural process, the rate of extinction has been dramatically accelerated by pollution, development and other industrial activities. As a result, we are losing up to 100 species each day compared to the natural extinction rate of only one species every 100 years. To find out more information about endangered species in Georgia, visit the website for the Georgia Natural Heritage Program.

Eutrophication – The slow aging process during which a lake, estuary, or bay evolves into a bog or marsh and eventually disappears. During the later stages of eutrophication, the water body is choked by abundant plant life due to higher levels of nutritive compounds such as nitrogen and phosphorus.  Human activities can accelerate the process.

The Environmental Protection Divisionis a division of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). EPD is a state agency whose mission is to “sustain, enhance, protect, and conserve Georgia's natural, historic, and cultural resources for present and future generations, while recognizing the importance of promoting the development of commerce and industry that utilize sound environmental practices.” Other DNR divisions include the Coastal Resources Division, the Wildlife Resources Division, State Parks and Historic Sites, and the Pollution Prevention Assistance Division.

Federal Court – Even though the State is responsible for enforcing the Clean Water Act in Georgia, because it is a federal law, a citizen does not have to bring the case in a Georgia state court, but can bring the case in federal court.  There are three federal district courts in Georgia: the Northern, Middle and Southern. You can visit the Federal Courts Map of Georgia to see what district you are in.

Fact SheetIf the permit is up for renewal, or it's a new permit that has not been issued yet, look for a fact sheet. Under federal law, EPD must prepare a fact sheet, also called a "statement of basis," which provides the basic rationale for issuing a permit.

Industrial Users – Also referred to as “indirect dischargers,” these industries discharge into municipal wastewater treatment plants instead of directly into a river, stream, or lake. Don’t assume, however, that discharged waste receives more treatment by going through a municipal wastewater treatment facility. Most municipal wastewater treatment facilities cannot treat the type of waste that industries generate, such as heavy metals; so, these materials merely “pass through” the facility and end up in our waterways. Records for these types of discharges are usually available at the local wastewater treatment plant.

Notice of Violation – A notice of violation documents a violation of an NPDES permit. It frequently is in the form of a letter and can be written either by the violator or by EPD. It merely gives notice that there has been a violation, and sometimes, there may be a penalty attached.  It may take a different form depending on the circumstances. Just look for anything that discusses specific violations as this is important information in terms of assessing whether a particular discharger is polluting a river and whether EPD took appropriate action.

A Point Source – This is a discernible, confined, and discrete conveyance of pollution (e.g. a pipe, ditch, etc.). A point source can also be a materials storage site (e.g. a manure pile) that, when exposed to rain or other elements, creates runoff into the waterways.

Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) – A supplemental project is typically a project implemented by a permittee who has violated the Clean Water Act that benefits the community impacted by the illegal dischargers. For example, these projects may include adopt–a–stream programs, streambank restoration projects and the purchase of conservation easements. SEPs usually arise from the settlement of a citizen suit against that violator. Read more information about SEPs.

TMDLs – The state of Georgia is under court order to finish the calculation of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements. A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards, and an allocation of that amount to the pollutant's sources. Read more information on TMDLs.

Watershed – A defined land area, which usually contains a stream channel, floodplains and upland areas, that captures rainfall and funnels in to a particular waterway (e.g. stream, lake, river).

Additional Terms

If the term you are looking for is not here, try the EPA glossary which provides definitions for many useful environmental terms.

Suggest a term that should be included in this glossary and a definition if you have it.  Send your suggestion to bbond@greenlaw.org.