Johnson v. City of Suffolk
In this case currently before the Virginia Supreme Court, Virginia oystermen claim that a Sanitation District and the City knowingly operated a sewage and stormwater system in such a way as to discharge wastewater into the Nansemond River, invading oyster beds being leased by the oystermen from the state for the express purpose of oyster cultivation, thereby damaging and taking the oysters—their private property—without compensation. From a lower court decision finding the oystermen’s claims were superseded by the right of localities to pollute freely pursuant to Darling v. City of Newport News, 249 U.S. 540, 543 (1919), the case is now before the Virginia Supreme Court. The issue to be decided is: Can a municipal entity evade liability under Article I, Section 11 of the Virginia Constitution after discharging wastewater from its public sanitation system into the Nansemond River, destroying privately owned oysters on sections of riverbeds leased from the Commonwealth for the express purpose of oyster cultivation? A copy of OCA’s Amicus Brief can be viewed here.